Sen. Lee: ‘This NDAA Should Contain a Warning Label’
Clocking in at 3,000 pages, the latest version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) isn’t exactly light reading. “As a rule,” Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) said, “Americans shouldn’t trust any bill so large that it has to be delivered by handcart.” And based on what’s in this compromise — and, more importantly, what isn’t — he’s dead-right.
The $841 billion dollar bill will be front and center this week, as House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and an army of conservatives debate how to best push back on the version that came out of conference — and still get home in time for Christmas. With Capitol Hill scheduled to be empty by Friday, time isn’t on the side of the NDAA’s critics. Adding to the sense of urgency is Congress’s long legacy of passing the defense budget on time — a 62-year streak that, despite some bitter partisan battles, has never been snapped.
For Johnson, who seems to be dealing with an ever-shrinking majority, finding a sweet spot on the NDAA will be his toughest challenge yet. The “compromise” language, which came out of closed-door House and Senate negotiations, is unpalatable to Republicans on a number of levels. For starters, the text abruptly ditched a lot of hard-fought conservative victories in the House version that would’ve put the brakes on taxpayer-funded abortion and transgender surgeries, drag shows on military bases, diversity, equity, and inclusion officers, radical climate change initiatives, and more.
“I’m extremely disappointed,” Rep. Eric Burlison (R-Mo.) told “Washington Watch” host and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins on Friday. “I keep hearing that we’re going to fight. But every time we get to the time … to fight, we keep kicking the can down the road,” he shook his head. “It’s extremely, extremely disappointing to see the vast majority of what I would think [are] common sense provisions [stripped out] … that we put in place really to stop this Biden administration from doing some of this crazy woke [stuff]. And in the case of the [taxpayer-funded] abortion transportation, [it’s] very dangerous, in my opinion.”
Frankly, Burlison said, a vote for this bill is a vote for Biden’s extreme social policies. “And I cannot in good conscience [do that].”
Of course, Perkins pointed out, the media is trying to hang this delay around Republicans’ necks, blaming them for “trying to inject social policies into the Department of Defense.” “But all of these policies, which the [House] Republicans were addressing in their version of the NDAA… simply address[ed] what the Biden administration did on its own. This wasn’t something that Congress did a couple of years ago, and you’re just now correcting it. If I’m not mistaken, this is all being driven by the Biden administration.”
“Absolutely,” Burlison replied. “The criticism that we’re trying to politicize [this debate is] actually the opposite, because we’re trying to remove a lot of these political associations — what I consider a misuse of the Department of Defense. So whenever they’re using taxpayer dollars to fund drag queen story hours on our military bases or creating diversity, equity, and inclusion officers … that’s one thing. But what I cannot tolerate is that we’re going to continue the process of paying for the travel expenses of people who want to get an abortion.” For decades, the Missouri congressman argued, there’s been a bipartisan agreement that the government wouldn’t put taxpayers on the hook for abortions. “And Joe Biden has thrown that concept out of the window. And to me, he’s the one that made this a political process.”
Another change infuriating Republicans (and some Democrats) is the attachment of FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act), which extends the program that’s been an excuse for the FBI to spy on everyday Americans. “There’s been a lot of concern over how the Biden Department of Justice and the intelligence community has been operating,” Perkins warned.
No wonder, Burlison pointed out. “There have been over 200,000 times that this system has been abused, particularly by the FBI. And what that means is for the American people, for your listeners, is that there’s a good chance that you or your neighbor have had their emails or text threads or other communications read [by the government], because it was lumped in with other foreign nationals inadvertently. And that should never be the case. We should require a warrant, as is protected under the Fourth Amendment.” Lumping this reauthorization in with a must-pass bill like the NDAA is “really awful” and destructive to the rights of Americans, he argued.
Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) has been equally vocal about the addition of FISA, since the president has proven that his administration can’t be trusted to act within the boundaries of the Constitution. “This NDAA should contain a warning label,” Lee said. “This bill, if passed into law, will further erode your rights under the Fourth Amendment by extending to 2025 FBI’s authority under FISA 702 to conduct warrantless ‘backdoor’ searches of your private communications.”
And it’s not just Republicans who are angry about this. Far-left Democrats like Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) are among the 51 congressmen who publicly oppose making the NDAA a vehicle to spy on Americans.
As Lee said, “This bill is full of reasons to oppose it.”
Of course, the trouble for Republicans is that they only control the House. So, as Burlison said, “We can either go down two paths. We can get bold and stare down some of these deadlines” — and even blow past them — to “pressure the Senate and the White House” to reinsert the House language. “But … if we’re not willing to do that, we’re not willing to go beyond the brink, then the other side knows that ultimately they won.”
“I would like to see a lot more courage come out of the House,” the Missouri congressman urged, “and particularly out of House leadership, to be able to say, ‘Look … if [our priorities aren’t] included, we’re going to have to let the NDAA expire.’”
As far as Family Research Council’s Quena Gonzalez is concerned, if Congress passes a defense bill without pro-life protections, “it will go down as an indelible black mark on the record of every congressman and senator voting ‘yes,’” he told The Washington Stand. “Voting for taxpayer-funded abortion will set a precedent that cannot be undone. Americans should demand that Congress reject taxpayer-funded abortion and send the NDAA back to be conferenced by the House and Senate.”
Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.