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The Journal Gazette

Friday, June 14, 2019 1:00 am

Banks votes against defense bill over 'political points'

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

Proposals introduced by Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd, are in the 2020 federal defense bill that he voted against.

The U.S. House Armed Services Committee voted 33-24 to advance the National Defense Authorization Act to the House. Only two Republicans cast ballots in favor of the legislation.

Banks said Thursday in a statement that the committee's Democratic majority “chose to break with years of traditional, bipartisan collaboration to instead politicize this process in unprecedented fashion in an effort to score cheap political points.”

He did not elaborate. But his office said Banks objected to the Democrats' provisions that would reduce funding for low-yield nuclear weapons, transfer detainees out of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and limit President Donald Trump's ability to use military funds for security at the Southern border. Banks' office said he also was displeased that Democrats rejected a Republican effort to increase defense funding from $733 billion to $750 billion.

Measures introduced by Banks that were incorporated into the legislation would:

• Have the National Intelligence director and the Pentagon identify foreign entities that pose a threat to national security-related research at American universities and colleges.

• Urge the Navy to expand its fleet of warships and require the Navy secretary to brief the Armed Services Committee on plans regarding the Arctic and Pacific oceans.

“We are engaged in both a great power competition with Russia and China while also facing increased threats from around the world,” Banks, an officer in the Navy Reserve, said Wednesday. He said the Trump administration should “specifically focus on the need for a presence in the Arctic and the importance of submarines.”

• Encourage the Defense Department to consider education options for the families of personnel at isolated military bases. Banks said the provision is based on his bill that would create education savings accounts for military families to use at schools of their choosing.

• Improve the portability of occupational licenses and certifications for spouses of military personnel who are reassigned to a different state. Banks is among two House members and three senators who introduced companion versions of the Portable Certification of Spouses Act in May.

bfrancisco@jg.net