Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), said at a press roundtable Wednesday that not passing a military funding bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), sends a message to enemies that we are weak, thus leaving the United States open to terrorist attacks.
Thornberry is the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, which has the responsibility to oversee the Pentagon, all military services, and all Department of Defense agencies, including their budgets and policies.
The thirteen-term lawmaker is the only Republican who went with Nancy Pelosi’s Congressional delegation to Jordan for meetings between King Abdullah II and top U.S. government officials, and then to Afghanistan to meet with top Afghan leaders, civil representatives, and U.S. military leaders and troops serving there.
The Congressman said that adversaries of the United States hear news about the partisan fighting over military funding and look for an opportunity to exploit that weakness, therefore it is imperative for Congress to get past their differences.
“Everybody give a little bit and get something passed, nobody will be happy with it but we have got to get it done, the clock is ticking. Less than a month and the adversaries are licking their chops to see what they can get away with it,” he said.
Thornberry coined an old political phrase to make his point clear.
“Probe with a bayonet, if you encounter mush proceed, if you encounter steel withdraw. Well, there is a lot of mush and it’s not just related to the Syria decision, it’s also Washington dysfunction that is producing mush and I am afraid the Iranians, the Putins, maybe others will take advantage of the mush.”
He said that the Republicans and Democrats need to compromise to pass the NDAA.
“My sense is there is going to have to be House Republican support for a bill because you can’t just pass it with Democrats in the House and get it passed in the Senate, much less get it signed by the president so there have to both parties in both chambers involved.”
The two sides have not been able to agree on the specifics of the NDAA, but there has been bipartisan outcry about pulling U.S. troops from Syria.
Thornberry made a point to say it’s easy to criticize the president on his Syria decision, but really the emphasis needs to be on coming together and getting the military funding bill passed in time, otherwise, the United States is leaving itself open to attacks.
“I want to emphasize, none of us pay enough attention to this, there is still a significant terrorist threat to our homeland emanating from Afghanistan, and our folks and the Afghans have done a good job of suppressing the threat to a large extent. It is there and it is significant.”
“I have a hundred percent certainty the United States is going to be tested in the weeks to come, it may be by Iran in the Gulf, it may be by Russia and Assad in Syria, it may be by terrorist[s] in Afghanistan or elsewhere, or somewhere place else in the world. We will be tested and yet we have less than a month of funding for our military right now and so I think the most important thing we can do, is for Congress to put aside the squabbling and fund the military.”
The Congressman said that is very important to express bipartisan support for troops stationed around the world, and in particular in the Middle East.
“I think it is always important for us to go express our bipartisan support for the military, because if all they hear in on the news is the dysfunction in Washington the concern is who’s got their back. They need to hear from us that we appreciate them and we support them.”
Thornberry included the impeachment proceedings in the list of issues that highlights the dysfunction and hyper-partisanship that is distracting lawmakers from getting the NDAA done.
“I guarantee the Putins and ayatollahs are watching and they may see this as an opportunity. Congress can make sure our military is funded and show bipartisan support to minimize the damage. There is a testing that is coming.”
The NDAA was introduced in the House in May of this year and it passed by recorded vote: 220 – 197 in the House in August. The Senate is in the process of hashing out a version of the bill they can agree to pass. There are several difference between the senate and house versions of the bill, some of the conflicting areas include, border funding, limits on possible war with Iran and transgender troop policy. Lawmakers are trying to accomplish this before breaking for Thanksgiving in November but with emphasis on impeachment it is slowing things down.