Stephanie Young, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) released the following statement today after the House passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014:
“The National Defense Authorization Act for 2014 is an important demonstration of Congress’s support for our troops and for those who work to advance a strong national defense. I am proud to support our defense programs, including the critical installations operating in Maryland’s Fifth District, by voting for this legislation. However, I have serious concerns about a number of provisions that Republican members included in the House version this year, which I hope will be changed when the Senate takes up this legislation in the coming weeks.
“While this bill includes robust funding for our national defense, it sets spending authorizations at the levels specified in the Budget Control Act without taking sequestration into account. As a result, some of the funds authorized by this bill are on track to be sequestered automatically unless Congress can achieve a big and balanced solution to deficits that replaces the sequester in its entirety. Additionally, Republicans prevented the adoption of an important amendment by Rep. Adam Smith that would have provided the President with the flexibility necessary to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba – a facility which will cost the taxpayer half a billion dollars next year, causes continued harm to our nation’s reputation abroad, and continues to serve as a recruitment tool for terrorists.
"I was also frustrated by the Republicans’ decision to block debate on two important amendments that would have expanded on the reforms already in the bill relating to the way the military handles sexual assault cases. Sexual assault is an unacceptable, pervasive problem in our Armed Forces – with the Defense Department reporting 26,000 assaults last year – and it must be dealt with comprehensively and swiftly.
“I am pleased that Democrats and Republicans were able to come together to adopt an amendment by Rep. Jim McGovern that calls on the Administration to proceed with a responsible timetable to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and also states that we should have a chance to vote on any troop presence after 2014. I am also glad that this bill provides resources for a pay raise for our troops. But Congress ought to end the disparity between those who serve in uniform and those who serve in civilian roles by matching the pay increase our troops receive with an equal increase for other federal employees – many of whom work in positions critical to supporting our national defense operations, and, indeed, in most cases work right alongside their uniformed colleagues.
“It is my sincere hope that the Senate will carefully scrutinize these provisions when it considers this bill, and I urge them to re-write them in a way that is more consistent with our values and our needs. I continue to believe that our troops must be provided with every tool necessary to perform their missions safely and effectively, and I hope Democrats and Republicans in Congress can continue working together, as we have in years past, to pass a final version of this bill that will help us meet our security challenges and maintain the most powerful and most well-equipped military in the world."