As prepared for delivery during today's hearing:
The biggest item on our agenda today is H.R. 6395, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021. The NDAA is one of the single most important pieces of legislation Congress must produce each year. It provides funding for our military, redirects our resources to our most pressing defense needs and ensures that the security of the United States remains paramount.
I want to direct special commendation to Chairman Adam Smith and Ranking Member Mac Thornberry, who achieved a truly bipartisan package in this year’s NDAA. I think my good friend Ranking Member Thornberry said it best when he said that this is not the bill he would have written, but on the whole, it is one that he agrees with and can support. In reviewing the bill, that’s an assessment I agree with. While this bill isn’t perfect, on the whole it is a good bill, and I look forward to continuing to improve it and eventually to voting in favor on final passage. I am especially looking forward to discussing the important issues that affect our military and our national defense, such as the ongoing need for discussions about our current authorizations for the use of military force.
In addition to the NDAA, we have three other items for our consideration. The first of these is the Great American Outdoors Act, the Senate’s lands package. This bill will establish a fund to address maintenance backlogs on federal lands and will permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund. I understand that Republicans on the Natural Resources Committee have some concerns about this bill, particularly the lack of spending offsets, and I look forward to hearing those concerns and hopefully allowing amendments to be made in order so that all members have a voice in producing this important bill.
Our two remaining bills are partisan bills, ostensibly on child care, that emerge from the Appropriations Committee. Since I will be representing Appropriations Republicans during testimony on these bills, I’ll have more to say on them later, and will reserve most of my comments for then.
But I do want to make clear how disappointed I am that neither of these bills received a markup, either by the Appropriations Committee or by the other committees of jurisdiction. The Appropriations Committee has been working hard this month on preparing our 12 appropriations bills for fiscal year 2021, and there is simply no reason why the committee couldn’t also have addressed these bills during one of our meetings. There’s really no reason why members weren’t afforded an opportunity to propose amendments and to make these bills better. Instead, these bills are being pushed through the Rules Committee straight to the floor without the benefit of having been reviewed and marked up by all members of the committee of primary jurisdiction.
When the Democrats took the majority, they promised that no bills would come before the Rules Committee that had not received a hearing and a markup in the committee of jurisdiction. Sadly, this promise has once again been broken. I would strongly, strongly urge the majority to stick to the promise they made at the beginning of this Congress. This is particularly necessary when we are considering bills like these two. One bill appropriates over $50 billion without any spending offsets, and the other appropriates over $11 billion and makes significant changes to the tax code, again without including spending offsets. When we are spending this kind of money and making such significant changes to our tax policy, the least we can do is spend time in committee actually considering these bills and allowing members an opportunity to make real changes. We owe the American people that much.