Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, is hailing a 59-2 vote on the National Defense Authorization Act in the House Armed Services Committee as proof of bipartisan support in the fight against defense cuts Friday.
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“That was a pretty big vote coming out of committee,” McKeon said, noting that it passed on the House floor with a vote of 315-107.
“We had to fight off some of the amendments of people who wanted to cut (military) funding,” he added.
The next step for the budget will be debate in the Senate, McKeon said.
Part of the hold up for the budget was getting time to debate the bill on the Senate floor, McKeon said.
In addition to fighting sequestration, McKeon said one of the bigger issues addressed in the defense budget was addressing the recent sexual assault scandal with tougher penalties.
The military’s current level of readiness, based on funding levels, was approximately 80 percent, McKeon said — a figure he considered unacceptable.
The current defense budget the House passed raises the readiness level to 90 percent, he said, and staves off $50 billion in defense cuts slated for the military due to sequestration.
Another big priority was addressing the recent sex scandal in the Armed Forces and pushing for stiffer penalties.
Under current laws, those convicted weren’t necessarily kicked out of the military, by statute, McKeon said.
The current House version of the NDAA calls for a minimum of two years in jail and a dishonorable discharge.
“If they commit the offense on a military base we’ll be much harsher on that,” McKeon said.
McKeon also took a firm stance on Guantanamo Bay, and cited a conflict with the president that has yet to be addressed with the House Armed Services chairman.
“We will not be closing Guantanamo (in the House version of the defense budget),” McKeon said, adding that the President has not responded to his requests on how the closure would affect the status of suspected terrorists in custody.
“He’s never talked to me, even though I’ve written him five letters on this issue.”
McKeon didn’t seem optimistic for a timeline on the budget, noting that last year it didn’t get approved until December.
“It’s going to be very difficult to get a spending bill for 2014 passed,” McKeon said.
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Source: Santa Clarita News