Annual defense policy legislation would be in jeopardy if House Democrats move forward with the impeachment of President Donald Trump, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee warned on Wednesday.
In a floor speech, Sen. Jim Inhofe reiterated that time is running short for negotiators to reach a deal on the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. A staunch Trump ally, Inhofe dinged the House impeachment inquiry, arguing Democrats are placing partisan aims over national security.
“It concerns me to see them prioritizing their misguided attempts to undo the results of the 2016 election through impeachment instead of taking care of our troops with the NDAA,” the Oklahoma Republican said. “If we can’t get our defense authorizations free [from] the partisan gridlock, what kind of a message does that send Americans who rely on our troops for protection.”
Moreover, partisan wrangling over the legislation hurts national security, he argued.
“Our adversaries, for them, they enjoy this dysfunction. That’s what they want,” Inhofe said. “They want defense funding mired in partisan debate. They don’t want us to catch up.”
The House Intelligence Committee will hold two public hearings next week, the first open airings of the chamber’s impeachment inquiry centered on Trump’s dealings with Ukraine and the administration’s decision to initially freeze nearly $400 million in security assistance to the eastern European nation.
Should the House impeach Trump, the Senate would be tied up for days or weeks in a trial, a prospect Inhofe said would further shrink the available time to pass a final defense policy bill.
“If the House sends us articles of impeachment, that would eat up all the time in December, and it could spill into January,” he said. “That would mean that we go beyond the deadline that our troops needed to be funded, and that is a reality that we’ve never had to face before.”
As a backup plan to the ongoing talks, Inhofe has introduced a slimmed down defense bill that would renew only the authorities set to expire at year’s end. But, so far, House Democrats have brushed off the concept of a “skinny” NDAA.
Inhofe blamed the lack of progress squarely on House Democrats in recent days. The House is on recess this week and House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) is leading a congressional delegation to the Middle East.
“This is the Democrats in the House,” Inhofe complained.
Negotiators are particularly at odds over whether to block military funding from being used for Trump’s signature wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
House Democrats and Senate Republicans also differ on a variety of other issues, including allowing transgender troops to serve openly, regulating PFAS chemicals by the military in firefighting foam, implementing paid family leave for federal workers and fixing the military widow’s tax.
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