The Real Problem with the National Defense Authorization Act
by Laurence M. Vance
For each of the past forty-eight years, Congress has passed the misnamed National Defense Authorization Act to set forth the budget of the Defense Department. President Obama just signed into law the latest version of the NDAA, but not without some controversy.
The House originally passed this 1145-page bill (H.R.1540) back on May 26 by a vote of 322-96. Only six Republicans voted against the bill (Justin Amash, John Campbell, Jason Chaffetz, John Duncan, Tom McClintock, & Ron Paul).
The 926-page Senate version of the bill (S.1867) was passed on December 1 by a vote of 93-7. Only three Republicans voted against the bill (Tom Coburn, Mike Lee, & Rand Paul). The Senate then incorporated the measure in a now 908-page H.R.1540 as an amendment.
The original House bill contained an affirmation in section 1034 that the president has “the authority to detain belligerents,” until “the termination of hostilities,” including persons who “(A) are part of, or are substantially supporting, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners; or (B) have engaged in hostilities or have directly supported hostilities in aid of a nation, organization, or person described in subparagraph (A).”
But it is the Senate version that, as amended in two ways, raised such a firestorm of controversy.