After a week of debate over only a handful of amendments presented by Senators, the U.S. Senate passed the $700 billion FY 2018 Pentagon spending bill.
This legislation, which is over 1,000 pages, was negotiated behind closed doors during the committee process and classified as secret by the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). During this time, the American people were promised a full and public debate on the Senate floor--which didn’t happen.
Mandy Smithberger, director of the CDI Straus Military Reform Project at the Project On Government Oversight issued the following statement on the bill’s process:
We remain highly disappointed with the Senate leadership for allowing a spending bill responsible for almost $1 trillion dollars in discretionary spending to make it all the way to the Senate floor without any transparency on the deliberations that occurred in Committee.
Every year we hear the closed committee process will be balanced by robust debate and voting on the Senate floor. This is clearly a farce. In this case only one amendment received a standalone vote, and it was only at the insistence of its sponsor, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY). Going back to regular order means open markup and open debate.
Until this year, a number of defense Subcommittees held open debate and votes on this legislation. And, while we recognize that some deliberations over classified programs should be conducted behind closed doors, classifying the entire committee deliberation is an abuse of classification solely for the committee’s convenience.
We hope next year that the Senate leadership on the Armed Services Committee will go back to the regular order championed by Chairman McCain, and debate and vote on a majority of the Pentagon funding bill in the public’s view.