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This Weeks Fights in Congress: Defense Spending and Energy

Now would be a good time for Republicans to stand with consumers against an onerous intervention that raises the price of food and fuel – all to benefit a couple of special interest groups.

A worker checks a dipstick to check water levels and temperatures in a series of tanks at an Encana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. hydraulic fracturing operation at a gas drilling site outside Rifle, Colorado, March 29, 2013. (Photo Credit: AP)

The National Defense Authorization Act will probably be the last major bill to come before the Senate this year.  This will set off an unpredictable scramble for last-minute amendments from senators looking for votes on a wide array of issues. Conservatives need to follow the process closely, as many of the amendments will be non-germane to the defense bill itself.

National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) 

This week, the Senate will be debating the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the bill (S. 1197) that reauthorizes all military and defense-related programs at a price-tag of over $600 billion.  This is very late to be passing the Fiscal Year 2013 authorization, as the House already passed its version in June.  The NDAA debate will provide senators with an opportunity to offer sundry amendments – both germane and non-germane to defense and foreign policy issues.

Here are some of the possible amendments that could come to the floor this week:

Minimum Wage

In this photo taken, Aug. 1, 2013, demonstrators protesting what they say are low wages and improper treatment for fast-food workers march in downtown Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File) 

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa)  wants to offer his minimum wage bill as an amendment.  The bill ( S. 460) would raise the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10.  Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is planning to respond by offering the RAISE Act to counter the wage mandates.

Under current labor laws, employers are actually hamstrung by maximum wage restrictions, limiting wages to the caps stipulated in union contracts.  Rubio’s bill would eliminate those restrictions, thereby exposing the Democrat hypocrisy for setting maximum wage restrictions and then demanding a hike in the minimum wage.

Let the free market work.

NSA Domestic Spying

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is working on an amendment to make it easier for Americans to be granted standing in a federal court to challenge the NSA surveillance program when the individual feels he was placed under surveillance.

Protestors hold posters reading 'Stasi 2.0' depicting US President Barack Obama wearing headphones, in allusion of a film poster of the movie 'The Lives of Others' talking about spying and monitoring practices of the former Eastern German secret police 'Stasi', on June 18, 2013 in Berlin, where Obama was expected for a visit from June 18 to 19, 2013. Photo Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images 

Sexual Assault in the Military

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) wants a vote on her amendment to change the way sexual assault cases are handled within the military chain of command

Her bill would strip commanders of the ability to prosecute sexual assault cases and hand them to military lawyers.  Among other things, the bill would also grant a special council to victims, eliminate the statute of limitations, and establish a civilian oversight board. 

While everyone agrees that this is a pervasive problem that must be solved immediately, it would be wise for the politicians to look at some of the social engineering in the military.  The Obama administration has made an end-run around Congress to place women in direct ground combat with men. 

In general, the military has been moving more and more towards a co-ed structure for everything.  Aside for clamping down on prosecutions of sexual assault, it would be prudent for Congress to study the influence of the co-ed structure and whether it helps or harms the fight against sexual assaults in the service.

Energy 

The House will take a slight detour this week and focus on three energy policy bills. 

On Tuesday, the House will consider H.R. 1965, the Federal Lands Jobs and Energy Security Act.  This bill, sponsored by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), would force the Department of Interior to decide on whether to issue a permit for onshore drilling within 60 days of the request.  It would also limit the department's ability to restrict lands for drilling wells and would impose a fine on those who lodge frivolous lawsuits against drilling. 

On Wednesday, the House will consider H.R. 2728, the Protecting States' Rights to Promote American Energy Security Act, sponsored by Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas).  This bill would block an impending Department of Interior requirement that fracking companies disclose the chemicals used in their drilling process in states that already have their own requirements and oversight.  Over 99 percent of the fracking process consists of merely water and sand.

In this March 29, 2013 photo, a worker checks a dipstick to check water levels and temperatures in a series of tanks at an Encana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. hydraulic fracturing operation at a gas drilling site outside Rifle, Colorado. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, can greatly increase the productivity of an oil or gas well by splitting open rock with water, fine sand and lubricants pumped underground at high pressure. Companies typically need several million gallons of water to frack a single well. In western Colorado, Encana says it recycles over 95 percent of the water it uses for fracking to save money and limit use of local water supplies. Credit: AP 

On Thursday, the House will consider H.R. 1900, the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act, sponsored by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.).  This bill would expedite the process of certification, licensing, and permitting for any pipeline project.

These are all good bills that directly address the federal government’s obstruction of domestic energy production.  While Republicans are on the topic of energy they might want to push a repeal of the ethanol mandate.  The mandate has become so unworkable and counterproductive that even Obama’s EPA was forced to reduce the targeted renewable fuels standard for this year. 

Now would be a good time for Republicans to stand with consumers against an onerous intervention that raises the price of food and fuel – all to benefit a couple of special interest groups.

TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.

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