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Senators and Congressmen Against The Troops

Our troops need your help in motivating the U.S. Senate.

Bobby Sr. - a father of two 82nd Airborne paratroopers - sent me some information on an upcoming vote in the Senate on HR 4323 - A bill to amend title 10, United States Code, to provide rapid acquisition authority to the Secretary of Defense to respond to combat emergencies.

HR 4323 is a bill designed to give the Department of Defense the ability to have Rapid Acquisition Authority (RAA). This ability is desired in order to speed up deployments, make them more effective and to provide adequate protection and facilities for our troops during combat emergencies.

Combat troops need lots of things - things like steel to improve their vehicles, construction materials to build bases and shelters, etc.

The mother of an 82nd Airborne Division Soldier had this to say about HR 4323:

The bill is pretty much self-explanatory and would allow the Pentagon to purchase needed equipment for the protection of our troops, protection from improvised explosive devices one of the main killers of our guys over in Iraq. Some of the protective devices are available at Home Depot and can, in the hands of our troops warn them when they are approaching one of these IED's. The money has already been appropriated, so it's not money, IT IS PURELY POLITICS. So, to help get the word out please send this out to all your friends and family and if you could, email or call your congressional representative and senators and demand they get this legislation up for a vote and get it passed. THIS CAN SAVE MANY, MANY LIVES AND IT MUST BE PASSED IMMEDIATELY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thanks to all of you for whatever you can do.

So I started looking into HR 4323 - here is a link to the Congressional Budget Office's evaluation of the bill and it is as the paratrooper's mother stated. It's already funded (meaning the rapid purchase of supplies won't increase the Defense budget) and every penny will be accounted fact, more so than normal acquisitions. That's right, this RAA might actually be MORE accountable than the regular bureaucratic/paper-laden acquisition process.

So, is it really politics that is causing this problem?

Brendan Miniter of the Wall Street Journal wrote an op-ed on HR 4323 on Tuesday. He had this to say:

...There's also little doubt that it would work. The Army ran a similar program successfully in Afghanistan. In that conflict part of the 82nd Airborne and all of the 101st Airborne found themselves without vital equipment as the invasion neared. Realizing the calamity that could ensue, the Army brass quickly rolled out the Rapid Fielding Initiative, and in a matter of days and weeks got equipment to the troops that normally would have taken months or even years to deploy.

One of Mr. Hunter's motivations came this past year when he saw tons of steel plating needed in Iraq, which had long been approved and fully tested for combat use, just sitting in an Army depot while acquisition officers ran even more tests. He finally managed to get the bureaucracy to ship that steel to where it could do some good. But that logjam is proving to be nothing compared with what he's finding in Congress. When his bill came up for a vote two weeks ago--as a standalone bill--the tally was 285-97 in favor. Leading the opposition was the Congressional Black Caucus, apparently concerned that preferences in government contracting would go by the boards. Of the caucus's 36 members, 18 voted against the bill and another 10 abstained. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also abstained--despite her repeated attacks on the administration for not getting necessary equipment to the troops.

In the Senate, partly because of the organized opposition in the House, the legislation is having an even rougher time. The office of John Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, says the senator hasn't had time to even look at the bill and "therefore has no position on it." As for Mr. Warner's Democratic counterpart, Sen. Carl Levin's office assured me the bill would not come up for a vote at all...

Senator Warner didn't have time to read it? It's one of the shortest bills in history!

And twenty-eight (78%) of the Black Caucus didn't vote for a bill that supports the troops. Here's the roll call of the Congressional vote on HR 4323. And below are the Black Caucus votes (Nay=Italics, Absent=Italics+Underline):

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings
Chair Maryland
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee
Vice-Chair Texas
Rep. Corrine Brown
Second Vice-Chair Florida
Rep. Danny K. Davis [Blackfive note: This is my congressman. I need a new one.]
Secretary Illinois
Rep. Barbara Lee
Whip California
Rep. Frank Ballance
North Carolina
Rep. Sanford D. Bishop, Jr.
Rep. Julia M. Carson
Rep. Donna M. Christian-Christensen
Virgin Islands
Rep. William L. Clay, Jr.
Rep. James E. Clyburn
South Carolina
Rep. John Conyers, Jr.
(founding member)
Rep. Artur Davis
Rep. Chaka Fattah
Rep. Harold E. Ford, Jr. [I was very disappointed about this non-vote.]
Rep. Alcee L. Hastings
Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.
Rep. William J. Jefferson
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson
Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones
Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick
Rep. John Lewis
Rep. Denise Majette
Rep. Kendrick Meek
Rep. Gregory W. Meeks
New York
Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton
Washington, D.C.
Rep. Major R. Owens
New York
Rep. Donald M. Payne
New Jersey
Rep. Charles R. Rangel
(founding member)
New York
Rep. Bobby L. Rush
Rep. David Scott
Rep. Robert Scott
Rep. Bennie G. Thompson
Rep. Edolphus Towns
New York
Rep. Maxine Waters
Rep. Diane E. Watson
Rep. Melvin L. Watt
North Carolina
Rep. Albert R. Wynn

So do these Representatives who voted against or abstained from voting care so much more about giving Minority Owned Businesses contracts (as Miniter suggests) rather than help our troops in harm's way?

The power to pass HR 4323 is now in the Senate. Contact your Senators here. Contact Senators John Warner and Carl Levin. Contact your newspapers and TV and radio stations. Email the WSJ article or this blog to everyone in your address book.

The Senate needs to get off of the dime, here.

Our troops are depending on us to help them!

Update 3PM CST: Stephen has a very good suggestion. Since the bill is in the Armed Services Committee, call Senator Warner's office at (202) 224-2023 and talk to his staffers. Be polite and professional. Talking points:

    1. When is the Senator going to read HR 4323?
    2. When will the Senator push the bill out of committee and on to the Senate floor?
    3. The bill passed the House by a wide margin of 285-97.
    4. Ask them to get back to you with answers. Leave a phone number.
    5. If you are veteran or know military people overseas, let them know that.
    6. Emphasize the importance of this bill to our troops - RAPIDLY getting much NEEDED equipment into COMBAT zones with NO BUDGETARY IMPACT. It's a no-brainer.

Go get 'em.

Update 3:20PM CST: Called and left a message. Also sent an email from Senator Warner's contact page.