When Republicans successfully mustered their entire caucus to block an up-or-down vote on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” on Tuesday, they were blocking a heck of a lot more. The National Defense Appropriations Act of 2011 wasn’t just about DADT, or the immigrant-friendly DREAM Act, or even the DOD budget: Its more than 3,500 provisions set out an ambitious (largely progressive) agenda for the most powerful government agency in the world. As the party of “Hell no!” tries to convince voters that it has an affirmative vision for America, here’s a look at just a few of the other rules Republicans didn’t want to become the law of the land—from combating contractor corruption and reducing Uncle Sam’s foreign footprint, to going green and caring for wounded warriors:
Revamping US Military and Foreign Policy
- No permanent military bases in Afghanistan.
- Report on long-term costs of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
- National Military Strategic Plan to Counter Iran.
- Standards and certification for private security contractors.
- Inclusion of bribery in disclosure requirements of the Federal awardee performance and integrity information system.
- Report identifying hybrid or electric propulsion systems and other fuel-saving technologies for incorporation into tactical motor vehicles.
Service Member Welfare
- Information sharing relating to investigation of exposure to drinking water contamination at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
- Adoption of military working dogs by family members of deceased or seriously wounded members of the Armed Forces who were handlers of the dogs.
- Recognition of role of female members of the Armed Forces and Department of Defense review of military occupational specialties available to female members.
- Protection of child custody arrangements for parents who are members of the Armed Forces deployed in support of a contingency operation.
- Improvements to Department of Defense domestic violence programs.
- Department of Defense recognition of spouses of members of the Armed Forces.
- Department of Defense recognition of children of members of the Armed Forces.
- Enhancements to the Troops-to-Teachers Program.
- Fiscal year 2011 increase in military basic pay.
- Improving aural protection for members of the Armed Forces.
- Comprehensive policy on neurocognitive assessment by the military health care system.
- Report on feasibility of study on breast cancer among female members of the Armed Forces.
- Pilot program on payment for treatment of members of the Armed Forces and veterans for traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Assessment of post-traumatic stress disorder by military occupation.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder counseling for civilian victims of the Fort Hood shooting and other similar incidents.
- Authority to make excess nonlethal supplies available for domestic emergency assistance.
Now, all these provisions might leave you with the impression that congressional Democrats were trying to ram through a “liberal” bill with no GOP input. That’s certainly what Republicans would like you to believe. Take Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who marched in step with her party comrades Tuesday. In a floor speech, she called repealing DADT “the right thing to do.” BUT! “But I cannot vote to proceed to this bill under a situation that’s going to shut down the debate and preclude Republican amendments,” she added. “That, too, is not fair.”
Except Republicans did get plenty of say on this bill. That’s how we got amendments like these:
- Prohibition on the use of funds for the transfer or release of individuals detained at United States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
- Prohibition on the use of funds to modify or construct facilities in the United States to house detainees transferred from United States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
- Prohibition on use of funds to give Miranda warnings to Al Qaeda terrorists.
There’s also this:
- Sense of Congress regarding recreational hunting and fishing on military installations.
And my favorite:
- Sense of Congress encouraging the President to order the United States flag to be flown over United States military and civilian outposts in Haiti during earthquake relief efforts.
Because what displaced Haitians really need right now is to see Old Glory flapping in the breeze from, you know, somebody else’s enclosed shelter.
In the end, even these concessions weren’t enough for Republicans to allow a majority vote on the overall bill. Why? Notwithstanding the posturing of “moderates” like Collins, it all comes back to one 573-word provision tucked into this 190,655-word bill. That provision, comprising three-tenths of 1 percent of the National Defense Authorization Act, is Section 536: “Department of Defense policy concerning homosexuality in the Armed Forces.”
We have this to be thankful for, at least: Conservatives have made it clear where their legislative priorities lie.