Ranking Member McGovern Applauds Bipartisan Conference Process with NDAA Bill

Jul 26, 2018

Ranking Member James P. McGovern

House Committee on Rules

Representing Massachusetts' 2nd District


Thursday, July 26, 2018


Jeff Gohringer (202) 225-2888

Ranking Member McGovern Applauds Bipartisan Conference Process with NDAA Bill  

Calls for more legislation to be considered under a similar process

**Video of his full speech is available online here**


WASHINGTON, DC —Rules Committee Ranking Member Jim McGovern (D-MA) this morning applauded the bipartisan conference process that brought the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Conference Report to the House Floor today. This process is a break from how Republican leaders normally operate, where bills often come before the Rules Committee without even being considered by the relevant committees first. More than half of the rules that the Republican Majority has brought to the floor this Congress have been unamendable. McGovern voted for the rule today in recognition of this improved process, with the exception of the lack of a new Authorization for Use of Military Force.

“I don’t get to say this enough – this process has been an example of how Congress should operate,” McGovern said on the House Floor. “Members brought their ideas forward when the original bill was being considered. The Rules Committee made amendments in order. We had some real debates here on the floor. And the conference committee has now done its job. That’s how this body is supposed to work. But under this Majority, it’s the exception and not the norm.”

The conference report includes recognition of Atomic Veterans, something McGovern has been fighting for. Between 1945 and 1962, about 225,000 members of our Armed Forces participated in hundreds of nuclear weapons tests. These GIs were placed in extremely dangerous areas and constantly exposed to radiation in performance of their duties. Sworn to secrecy, they could not even speak of their service.

The past three House versions of the NDAA included language pushed by McGovern that would award Atomic Veterans a service medal honoring their sacrifice and service. Although it was adopted with near-unanimous votes, the language was dropped in conference each time. This year’s report includes provisions that would award Atomic Veterans a certificate of recognition. It also encourages the Secretary of Defense to consider an appropriate medal or award to recognize radiation-exposed service members.

“For the life of me, I can’t understand why it’s so hard for the Pentagon to honor these proud veterans with a service medal,” McGovern said on the House Floor. “I remain committed to making sure that they receive that recognition. I hope the Chairman and Ranking Member will add their voices to encouraging the Secretary of Defense to do the right thing and confer a medal that recognizes the courage, sacrifice and service of the Atomic Veterans.”

Despite the better process with this conference report, there are still several weaknesses with the underlying bill. That includes the fact that it endorses President Trump’s plan to develop new low-yield nuclear warheads, omits tougher Senate-passed language on ZTE, and fails to include a new Authorization for Use of Military Force 17 years after the war in Afghanistan began.

McGovern offered a bipartisan amendment to the House NDAA bill with Representatives Jones, Lee, Garamendi, Kildee, and Welch. The amendment directed the administration to send a report to Congress if it sought to escalate the number of U.S. troops deployed in Afghanistan in the next fiscal year. Congress would then have 30 days to either disapprove of this escalation or allow it to move forward. Republicans leaders blocked this amendment from even being debated on the House Floor.

“There are now more than 12,000 of our constituents there today. Mr. Speaker, don’t my Republican colleagues want to have a say over whether their constituents are sent to fight abroad? We are 17 years into this war. There is no end in sight! The least we could do is spend ten minutes debating our foreign policy on the House Floor,” said McGovern.