Top defense Dem touts 'most progressive defense bill' in history

By Tony Bertuca / December 10, 2019 at 4:47 PM

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) today defended the final version of the fiscal year 2020 defense authorization bill from the criticism of some left-wing Democrats who said the legislation did not contain enough of the party's liberal priorities, despite including 12 weeks of paid family leave for all federal employees.

"This is the most progressive defense bill in the history of the country with Donald Trump as president and [Sen.] Jim Inhofe [R-OK] as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee," Smith said. "I will rest on that sentence."

Smith's defense of the bill followed criticism from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a top candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), vice-chair of the House Progressive Caucus, who released a statement on Tuesday urging opposition to the legislation.

"Every member of Congress should vote against this measure," they said in a joint statement. "There is no pressing reason for Congress to shower Trump, his Saudi friends, and the Pentagon contractors of the military-industrial complex with this $738-billion taxpayer giveaway right now. We owe it to the American people to go back to the drawing board. Congress must say no."

The bill does not include several of House progressives' key priorities including a ban on U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led coalition's war in Yemen, mandating congressional consent for a military strike against Iran, global cleanup of PFAS chemicals, an overturning of a ban on transgender troops, and a ban on low-yield nuclear weapons.

Earlier today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told a conference hosted by Politico that Democrats had "won" paid family leave -- which some staffers said is expected to cost $3.3 billion over five years for every federal employee and $1.3 billion for DOD and intelligence community employees alone -- while Trump had "won" Space Force.

Smith said it wasn't a simple trade.

"We're not trading widgets here," he said. "We're focused on policy, so it's not a dollar-for-dollar analysis. I think it's a big overstatement to say one thing was traded for another. . . . There are 1,377 provisions in this bill. We attempted to strike a balance in the interests of everybody."