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Congressman Tom Cole

Representing the 4th District of Oklahoma

Democrats Are Playing Politics Over Our Nation's Security

January 17, 2018
Weekly Columns
This week, the House will once again consider another funding measure to keep the government running and to avoid the possibility of a government shutdown. This spending bill will be the fourth Fiscal Year 2017 continuing resolution that the House has taken up to fund federal agencies, the military and a wide range of discretionary programs. Unfortunately, this means that the federal government is going to continue to run on funding levels that were set more than a year ago. These funding levels do not reflect the changing environment and demand that agencies and the military have faced in the last year. Now that we are in the first few weeks of 2018, functioning on Fiscal Year 2017 levels is not only costly to the federal government, it is very damaging to its ability to run efficiently, especially in the military.
 
Congress has dedicated the past year, working alongside President Trump, to increase funding for the military so that it performs at its highest readiness levels. Each year, Congress is responsible for authorizing and appropriating money for the Department of Defense and the men and women in uniform. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is a comprehensive authorizing measure that has been consecutively passed by Congress for 56 years. There is no question that supporting our troops at home and abroad is an issue both sides of the aisle agree on. This year’s NDAA for Fiscal Year 2018 authorized the funding levels Congress should set for military spending, with base budget requirements at $631.5 billion. Furthermore, the Fiscal Year 2018 NDAA passed with bipartisan support. But as Congress tries to negotiate ways to put our government spending back on track, many Democrats are threatening the process with their own demands. Those demands are an increase in domestic spending that matches the increase for defense and permanent legal status for the children of parents who entered the country illegally.
 
It is imperative that we find appropriate budget levels to halt the redundant cycle of using continuing resolutions and move onto negotiating next year’s fiscal year spending bills. Democrats are damaging the process of spending negotiations by demanding a bill that asks for dollar-for-dollar spending between defense and non-defense discretionary funds. This sort of demand not only drives up our federal debt, it undermines our national security and defense forces.
 
For the Democrats to hold our military hostage in order to secure more domestic spending is political blackmail. Both Democrat and Republican agree that the Department of Defense requires more money. Most Democrats have already agreed to the funding levels outlined in the Fiscal Year 2018 NDAA with their vote. Agreeing to a spending bill that promotes the same measures should not be an issue.
 
In addition to their impractical demand for matched discretionary and defense spending, the Democrats are pushing to have a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) fix in the final spending bill, or they will shut down the government. President Trump was right to put the Constitutional responsibility of DACA legislation in the hands of Congress, but a demand for a quick fix will not solve the problem of how to increase border security while protecting those who arrived in this country through no fault of their own. Demanding a solution by threatening a government shutdown is irresponsible and disingenuous. A legislative solution will need to be supportive of both stronger border security and a system to protect the children brought here illegally by their parents.
 
Due to the Senate rule which requires 60 votes to pass any appropriations measure, the next spending bill will need bipartisan support. A demand for parity in the government's spending dollars and a quick DACA fix raises the prospects of a government shutdown. These demands are not being negotiated in good faith from the Democrats. Indeed, Democrats are using the same tactics that they condemned Republicans for employing in the 2013 government shut down crisis. Those tactics didn’t work for Republicans then. They won’t work for Democrats now. Threats to shut down the government are always a mistake.
 
The delay of any spending bill jeopardizes our military's ability to function efficiently and our national security. The dollars that we appropriate to the Department of Defense go toward building ships, giving our troops their well-deserved pay raises, providing resources for those fighting terrorism overseas. Playing politics at the risk of not funding our military and shutting down the government is both risky and reckless. The Democrats should put the safety and security of our nation first over their own political agenda.