$716B defense bill passes 359-54
Kuster, Shea-Porter vote for massive military spending
U.S. Reps. Annie Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter, both D-N.H., joined with the majority of their colleagues to pass the bill by a vote of 359-54. It now heads to the Senate for consideration.
“This bipartisan funding measure includes important provisions that will benefit our men and women in uniform, bolster our national security, and support jobs in New Hampshire,” Kuster said. “We ask so much of our service members and I’m glad that this legislation will provide a well-deserved pay raise.”
“In addition, I’m pleased my provision to address long standing barriers that have prevented survivors of military sexual assault from coming forward and seeking justice was included,” she added.
Kuster said the bill also includes funding to combat the opioid epidemic, as well as for the further study of the group of chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These are human-made chemicals that can be found in everyday products. Several New England communities have detected PFAS in groundwater, including Merrimack.
Shea-Porter said the legislation will ensure “important investments in the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.”
“In addition, it repeals a harmful policy that cut Shipyard workers’ pay and benefits and will allow the Defense Department to provide back pay to National Guard officers whose promotions are delayed due to bureaucratic issues at the Pentagon,” she said.
“Working to keep our country safe and to protect our men and women in uniform has been one of the greatest privileges of my life, and I’m proud that the Armed Services Committees has once again produced a bipartisan bill that supports our military, secures our nation, and includes several New Hampshire priorities I fought for,” Shea-Porter added.
The defense bill drops a Republican proposal that would have barred the Fish and Wildlife Service from using the Endangered Species Act to protect two chicken-like birds in the western half of the U.S. The House-approved language would have blocked endangered-species listing for the sage grouse and lesser-prairie chicken for 10 years.
The birds have become flashpoints in an ongoing battle over whether they warrant federal protection that hinders mining and other development from Kansas to California.
Environmentalists hailed the decision and mocked the idea that the birds pose a threat to the Pentagon. Tracy Stone-Manning of the National Wildlife Federation said she’s relieved lawmakers “recognized that sage grouse and other wildlife aren’t national security threats.”
The bill also drops an effort to loosen Cabinet control over the National Nuclear Security Administration, the agency responsible for securing the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile.
The bill is named after U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who is away from Congress battling brain cancer.
The annual measure sets policies and a budget outline for the Pentagon, to be funded by a later appropriations bill that typically follows the policy measure fairly closely.