House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today issued the following statement ahead of the House vote on the Conference Report for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020.
“Before my colleagues and I cast our votes on the FY20 NDAA, one thing must be made clear: This is the most progressive defense bill we have passed in decades.
“After months of hard-fought negotiations, our bill is now final, and contains major wins for Democrats and working people and promotes our national security. Despite this sweeping success, some have decried the bill, saying it fails to live up to progressive values. To those detractors I ask one simple question: Which of the provisions that did not make it into our final bill did President Trump, Leader McConnell, and Chairman Inhofe not hate?
“From the moment we passed our bill through the House without the support of a single Republican vote, it was clear that our counterparts in the Senate and White House fundamentally opposed the Democratic priorities included in the bill.
“Do you know what they also hated? The repeal of the ‘widow’s tax’ and granting paid parental leave for federal employees. But, because of our tireless work, we succeeded in getting these provisions included. Because of this hard work, our bill will have real impacts on Americans leading real lives.
“Throughout the negotiations I failed in one way: I was unable to turn President Trump, Leader McConnell, and Chairman Inhofe into Democrats and convince them to suddenly accept all of the provisions they despise. Nonetheless, we have accomplished more with this bill than anyone ever thought possible given the realities of a Trump White House and a Republican-controlled Senate, and we should be proud of that.
“To those who say that this bill isn’t enough – I could not disagree more. When I look at the widows, the parents, and families who will benefit from the bill, it is enough. We are delivering more for families across this country than anyone even conceived of going into this year.
“To those who say that we should have ‘fought harder’ or ‘held the line’ – I can assure you we fought the entire time until the very end. President Trump, Leader McConnell, and Chairman Inhofe would have killed the bill over these provisions. If we kill the bill, we would have gotten nothing. Not a single Democratic priority.
“Leader McConnell and Chairman Inhofe would have been thrilled to pass a ‘skinny NDAA’ with zero Democratic priorities. That alternative bill would have none of the key policies we fought so hard for – no paid parental leave, no “widow’s tax” repeal, and nothing to address PFAS.
“That is why I so am proud of this bill – because of everything that is contained in its 1,249 individual provisions and more than 4,000 pages. I am proud that this bill will change the lives of millions by providing paid parental leave. I am proud that this bill will better provide for the widows and families of those service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. And I am proud that this bill reflects Democratic priorities and American values.
“And make no mistake about it, I will continue to fight for the provisions we did not get, hopefully at some point with a Senate and President who better reflect the values of our country. I know how important these provisions are.”