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HASC Chair Hits Back At Republicans Over Stalled NDAA « Breaking Defense

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CAPITOL HILL: Debate over the Space Force remains one of the “higher echelon” issues roiling negotiations over the 2020 defense policy bill. Add to it President Trump’s border wall, the ban on recruiting transgender troops, and reauthorizing the 2002 AUMF, Rep. Adam Smith, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee told reporters today.

Smith wouldn’t predict what the final compromise bill might look like, but noted that there is a huge range of opinion on the Hill over the Space Force and talks continue.

Overall, “I think we are proceeding reasonably well” on getting a final bill wrapped up. Smith added that, “I don’t think we’re particularly far off” from forging an agreement over the most contentious aspects of the legislation.

“I believe the Senate and the White House wants to get the bill done,” he said. Like House Democrats, everyone wants “to try and find a way out of this problem.”

Smith wasn’t so sanguine when firing back at GOP charges that the House impeachment hearings are affecting the NDAA negotiations. Impeachment “has literally nothing to do” with passing the defense authorization bill, despite Republican claims to the contrary, Smith said.

Smith was reacting to recent comments by Senate Armed Service Committee chair Jim Inhofe and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who are placing the failure to pass an NDAA squarely at the Democrats’ feet.

The defense bill, traditionally the least partisan legislation on the Hill, got drawn into the vortex of impeachment. McConnell on Tuesday accused Smith and House Democrats of “dragging their heels” in conference negotiations, after passing “a uniquely partisan NDAA earlier this year, unlike the Senate’s bipartisan version, and now they are slow-walking the conference committee,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “The United States of America cannot operate at less than full strength on the world stage because Democrats are too busy impeaching the commander in chief.”

Last week, Inhofe accused House Democrats of “prioritizing their misguided attempts to undo the results of the 2016 election through impeachment instead of taking care of our troops with the NDAA.”

Impeachment is not affecting the process at all,” Smith said, shifting the blame to Republicans. Republican leaders have cancelled a series of meetings to hash out the particulars of the delayed 2020 defense policy bill, he said, and “there has been much more partisanship from the Republicans than I have ever seen before,” when it comes to the NDAA. “There’s no reason on earth we cannot pass this bill right now, and impeachment has nothing to do with it.”

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