This was a vote on final passage of legislation providing annual funding for Defense Department programs, continuing the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policy that banned gays from serving openly in the military, and prohibiting the Obama administration from implementing a nuclear weapons reduction treaty with Russia.
Over the objections of many Republicans, President Obama had signed into law legislation repealing DADT in 2010. The Senate had ratified the nuclear arms agreement with Russia—known as the “New Start Treaty”—that same year.
This bill also contained a highly controversial provision—known as “Section 1034”—that granted the president the authority to "use all necessary and appropriate force during the current armed conflict with Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces." Critics of this provision argued that it amounted to an open-ended authorization for the president to pursue endless warfare in the pursuit of terrorists.
Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA), the chairman of the committee that drafted the bill, urged members to support it: “The legislation will advance our national security aims, provide the proper care and logistical support for our fighting forces and help us meet the defense challenges of the 21st century….The legislation we will consider today also makes good on my promise, when I was selected to lead the Armed Services Committee, that this committee would scrutinize the Department of Defense's budget and identify inefficiencies to invest those savings into higher national security priorities. We examined every aspect of the defense enterprise, not as a target for arbitrary funding reductions, as the current administration has proposed, but to find ways that we can accomplish the mission of providing for the common defense more effectively.”
Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI), another supporter of the bill, argued that the measure “truly supports our men and women in combat, enhances our national security, and is in keeping with the true bipartisan history of the House Armed Services Committee [the committee that drafted the bill].” Langevin also said: “While I don't agree with every provision in the bill, I am proud that both parties worked together to reach compromises on many measures that support our national defense….Regrettably, there are also several provisions included that deeply concern me--from attempts to derail the successful repeal of DOD's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy to measures tying the President's hands over decisions about our nuclear arsenal and the closure of Guantanamo Bay. It is my hope that these issues will be further considered and improved upon by the conference committee. However, overall, this bill reflects the recognition of the Congress of the incredible sacrifices that our brave men and women in uniform make for our country every day. I am certainly honored to be a part of this process, and I certainly look forward to supporting this bill as it moves through the legislative process and moves into law.”
Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) opposed the bill: “There is much in this bill to recommend, particularly the way in which it deals with the men and women that are in arms, the support that they need, the benefits that they require, and the care that they require following their missions. However, there is in this bill a missed opportunity, and I must therefore oppose the bill, the opportunity to change the direction of the war in Afghanistan, a war that seems without end, and a war that seems to be perpetual. A successful raid and the successful taking of bin Laden is an opportunity to pivot, and we are missing that opportunity in this bill, and continuing to spend over $100 billion on that war in Afghanistan. Also in this bill is section 1034, the continued authorization for the use of force. That too must be eliminated. For those reasons, I oppose this legislation.”
The House passed this bill by a vote of 322-96. Voting “yea” were 227 Republicans and 95 Democrats. 90 Democrats—including a majority of progressives—and 6 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the House passed legislation providing annual funding for Defense Department programs, continuing the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy that banned gays from serving openly in the military, and prohibiting the Obama administration from implementing a nuclear weapons reduction treaty with Russia. The Senate, however, was expected to pass its own Defense Authorization bill later in the year. Following House and Senate passage of their respective defense bills, the two houses could begin reconciling the differences between the two measures.