RAO Davao City

United States Military Retiree Activities Office Davao City, Philippines

NDAA 2009 UPDATE September 14, 2008

Posted by Service Officer on September 14th, 2008

The Senate returned to work and took up consideration of the cloture motion to proceed to S.3001, the DoD Authorization bill on 8 SEP. Two hours later they proceeded to a roll call vote on the Motion to invoke Cloture which was approved 83-0 allowing the Senate to move to debate on this bill. Cloture is a procedural vote to limit debate and force a vote on a particular issue. It prevents excessive discussion of an issue (called filibustering or talk-a-thon). Three-fifths of all senators (sixty if there are no vacancies) must vote for the motion for cloture for it to be invoked. Once cloture is invoked, the Senate must take final action on the issue by the end of the thirty hours of consideration and may consider no other business until it takes that action. Each senator may speak for a total of no more than one hour. Senators may yield all or part of their hour to one of the floor managers or floor leaders that may in turn yield that time to other senators, but each manager and leader may be yielded no more than two hours. No delaying amendments or motions are allowed, and all debate and amendments must be relative to the debate. Only amendments filed before the cloture vote may be considered; no new amendments may be offered. No senator may call up more than two amendments until every other senator has had an opportunity to do so.

 

Certain senators want cloture to be invoked, so that the bill will move faster through the Senate, into conference committee, and to the President’s desk for signature into law. They may want to protect language they have already inserted, or limit discussion on amendments they wish to offer. With adjournment slated for September 26th, time is of the essence. Others senators do not want cloture to be invoked, for a variety of reasons. They may feel pressured into certain limitations on amendments they want to offer to the bill. They may desire to insert an earmark for their state or for a particular project. They may want to debate a provision of the bill for which they disagree. If the cloture vote fails, debate may continue without limit. Usually the bill is set aside rather than having unlimited debate. Setting aside the NDAA would not have been in the best interests of anyone.

Some of the most important legislation for the military community on Congress’ agenda from now until it finally adjourns are the FY2009 Defense Authorization Act, the FY2009 Defense Appropriations Act and the FY 2009 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act. There was a flurry of activity in the Senate on both defense bills this week, but only time will tell whether or not they will actually pass the bills and then go to conference committees with the House of Representatives. On 10SEP, the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee approved a $487.7 billion spending bill, which is $4 billion less than the President requested but 6.2% above the FY2008 spending level. In July the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee approved a similar measure with the same total amount of discretionary funding but the full House Appropriations Committee will not vote on the final bill until the week of 15 SEP. That means the appropriations bill still has to go through both the Senate and House Appropriations committees and then go to each floor for a final vote. Whatever differences there are between the two bills will then have to go to a conference committee, and once agreement is reached there on one final bill, it must go back to the full House and Senate for a final vote before it can be sent to the President for his signature.

While the leaders of both the House and the Senate have said they want to finish the bill in SEP, the amount of time left, together with the workload still facing Congress, and the need they feel to adjourn so they can campaign, leaves many observers wondering if the bill will actually ever pass – at least prior to the November election. The full Senate was busy this week debating the annual defense authorization bill for FY2009. The House passed its version of the bill back in May. On 8 SEP there were reported to be at least 177 amendments to the Senate bill, but by 12 SEP that number had risen to 220. One of those amendments was by Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, which would repeal a requirement that the survivors of military personnel killed in action have to offset the amount of benefits they receive from the Defense Department by the amount they net from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The amendment passed by a vote of 94 to 2 and is something Senator Nelson and others have sought for eight years to repeal. Although the Senate leadership had originally stated their goal was to finish the bill 12 SEP they have now scheduled the vote on the legislation for 16 SEP. A dispute over earmarks that are part of the bill has become the major obstacle to passage, and that debate is tied directly to the elections, with many Republicans campaigning against earmarks in general. Beyond that, President Bush has threatened to veto both the House and Senate versions of the bills because of provisions targeting the use of contractors in combat zones. [Spource: TREA Washington Update 12 Sep 08 ++]

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