John McCain: Senate has abdicated its oversight role on defense policy

A day after the Senate passed its Defense bill — a decade after it passed the House version of the bill — its author, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), and his staff said the Senate is abdicating its oversight role and quickly sailing through legislation. They said that if the bill doesn’t go to the floor before August recess, it will send a message that Congress doesn’t want to address defense issues.

Critics on the other side of the aisle called it the opposite.

“Senator Schumer will always push the bills as quickly as he can. I’m not sure if it’s good for our national security,” said Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman.

A defense bill that had fallen through before on short time frames made a return to the floor a foregone conclusion, but McCain and others said it had to be done right the first time. McCain said in a statement that the bill is “ironclad in support of NATO, is the most ambitious on cyber of any Congress in history, and preserves policies to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, as well as a comprehensive strategy on missile defense.”

McCain’s staff said the legislation includes just $647 billion for the military’s core budget, and just $15 billion for other parts of the military budget, unlike the $700 billion for the services’ base budget that many expected before the bill.

The bill does give Pentagon agencies more flexibility to adjust their budget, and includes an amendment from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) to amend the rules around offshore drilling safety, adding more provisions on that topic.

Critics countered that the bill overstates some spending and cuts other programs. Others argued that it makes the country less safe by repealing language that requires the administration to repeal the 2001 authorization to use military force.

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