Senate Floor Speech on the NDAA for FY 2014 - This bill was reported out of the Armed Services Committee with a strong bipartisan vote of 23-3. We have enacted a national defense authorization act every year for more than 50 years.
Mr. Levin: Madam President, we will soon vote on whether to invoke cloture on S. 1197, the National Defense Authorization Act. This bill was reported out of the Armed Services Committee with a strong bipartisan vote of 23-3. We have enacted a national defense authorization act every year for more than 50 years. It is critically important that we do so this year.
We spent all day yesterday debating two amendments, addressing sexual assault in the military, but we have not been allowed to vote on them. There was objection on the other side to voting even on those two amendments, which have now been fully debated. We were told that senators wouldn't let us vote on the sexual assault amendments because they were afraid that those would be the only votes. We offered to lock in additional amendments, six for Democrats, six for Republicans. That got an objection. Staff had built up a clear amendment package of 39 additional amendments on a bipartisan basis, about half for each side, that were all agreed to on the merits. Again, we got thwarted.
So over and over again, we got objections to considering amendments based on the accusation that we were not considering enough amendments. How on earth does blocking the considerations of amendments that we can all agree on advance the cause of considering amendments?
Now, I'm going to continue to work with my friend from Oklahoma, and we are good friends and we work together well. He is right. I am going to continue to work toward an agreement that will enable us to proceed with additional amendments on this bill. This would not be the first time that this kind of a problem has happened on a defense authorization bill.
In 2008, one senator objected to a cleared amendment package and to bringing up amendments. As a result, we were able to have only two roll call votes and adopted only nine amendments, all of which were agreed to before the objection was raised. Then as now, the objection did not result in more amendments being adopted but rather in almost no amendments being adopted at all. In 2008, we invoked cloture and proceeded with the bill with virtually no senate amendments, a result which was less than ideal, but at least it enabled us to enact the defense authorization bill.
Madam President, we must pass a national defense authorization bill. If we fail to do so, we will be letting down our men and women in uniform and failing to perform one of Congress' most basic duties, providing for the national defense. As is the case every year, if we fail to enact this bill, our troops will not get the full amount of compensation to which they are entitled. If we fail to act, the department's authority to pay out combat pay, hardship duty pay, special pay for nuclear