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Senators have more than 900 ideas to fix America’s security

Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C. (Pixabay/Released)
November 23, 2021

Senators have submitted more than 900 amendments to the fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Bill in efforts to improve the nation’s security—and, in some cases, to tie unrelated priorities to the must-pass bill.

While most of the proposed amendments relate to the Defense Department, including the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the supply chain’s reliance on China, and whether troops should be forced to get the COVID-19 vaccine, some lawmakers are trying to add unrelated changes, including ideas to end the opioid epidemic and new initiatives within the Department of Health and Human Services.

Not all of these proposals will even be considered on the floor. Dozens of noncontroversial amendments are typically grouped together into a manager’s package that can easily pass the chamber. Senate leaders will then decide how many and which amendments will get hours of debate and an individual vote.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has not yet announced which amendments will be considered, but did say that the NDAA is the “logical place” to consider the repeal of the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, which approved military action in Iraq following 9/11.

“The Iraq war has been over for a decade. An authorization passed in 2002 is no longer necessary for keeping Americans safe in 2021,” Schumer said Thursday on the Senate floor. “There is a real danger to letting these legal authorities persist indefinitely.”

Here’s a roundup of some of the top issues other lawmakers are trying to add to the bill:

  • Ending reliance on Chinese rare earth minerals: An amendment from Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., would order the government to write four reports on America’s use of Chinese rare earth minerals, which are in most technology systems from cell phones to fighter jets. The reports would look at whether the United States has the right funding and authorities to stockpile enough rare earth minerals and what defense contractors are required to disclose about the sources of the minerals in their products. One report would study the impact of banning the use of Chinese rare earths in contracts signed after Dec. 31, 2026, while another would detail discussions the United States is having with allies about their own supply chains.
  • Parental rights for military academy students: Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is introducing his proposal to ensure that students who become parents while studying at a military academy can both finish their studies and retain their parental rights. The plan won early bipartisan support from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and has since attracted nine other co-sponsors from both parties.
  • Countering extremism in the ranks: Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., would require the defense secretary to tap a defense undersecretary as the “senior official for countering extremism.” The amendment would also develop new training and education programs to eliminate extremism in the ranks and establish a database to track extremist activities in the military.
  • Afghanistan: A bipartisan amendment would establish the Afghan Working Group and Afghan Threat Finance Cell, two interagency groups intended to fight the narcotics industry in Afghanistan and eliminate illicit financial networks. The proposal from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, would authorize the two groups for three years after the bill becomes law. Another Afghanistan-related amendment from Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., would award the Congressional Gold Medal to troops killed in the terrorist attack at the airport in Kabul during the final evacuation from Afghanistan.
  • Election security: This amendment would establish a Global Electoral Exchange Program to make sure international allies are sharing best practices on cybersecurity, transparency and how to resolve disputed results to keep elections free and fair. The new office, which is supported by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., would fall under the State Department’s Global Engagement Center.
  • Selling military gear to law enforcement: A proposal from Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., would restrict what unused military equipment could be sold or donated to local police units. The amendment would add explosives, firearms, and ammunition that is .50-caliber or larger and asphyxiating gases to the list of things that cannot be sold or donated to police departments.
  • Covid-19 vaccine mandate: Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla, is seeking to delay enforcement of the Covid-19 vaccine mandate for troops until Pentagon leaders consider every medical or religious exemption request, and the appeal process for each case concludes. The amendment would also allow troops to take legal action against the military if their religious exemption request is denied without a written reason from the Office of the Chief of Chaplains.
  • Keeping Cuba on terrorism list: An amendment from Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, would prohibit the administration from removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism until the president himself proves to Congress that the country is no longer a sanctuary for terrorists.
  • Fighting for women’s rights: An amendment introduced by Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., would establish the Office of Global Women’s Issues at the State Department to ensure fighting for equal rights for women and girls around the world is a central part of America’s foreign policy. It would also establish another new office, the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative, to ensure women have access to job training and mentorship.

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