US Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner rips the Senate for failing to pass two Pentagon bills. (Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — US House Speaker John Boehner is harshly criticizing the Democratic-run Senate for failing — so far — to pass two annual Pentagon bills, urging the upper chamber to “get serious.”
The Ohio Republican sets the lower chamber’s agenda, and he made sure it finished work on Pentagon spending and authorization legislation for 2014 months ago. But both bills languished in the Senate despite being approved by its Armed Services and Appropriations committees over the summer.
The Senate tried to finish its 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) before Thanksgiving, but basically gave up on Nov. 20 after a Democratic-Republican spat over amendments. That bickering remains unresolved, sources say, though armed services committee and chamber leaders want to take up the bill next week after returning from a two-week break.
The amendments fight could make the Senate’s NDAA unpassable, with GOP members objecting to Democratic motions on votes and killing more moves to end debate. With other topics to tackle and only working for two weeks in December, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., could decide to simply table the NDAA and take it up next year.
That would end a 51-year streak of sending a final version of that formerly “must-pass” legislation to the White House to be signed into law.
As the Senate bickers, House Republicans are furious.
“Listen, the House has done more than half the appropriation bills. The Senate has done none,” Boehner said Tuesday at a press briefing. “All right?”
The speaker, who hails from defense sector-friendly Ohio, pointed specifically to the NDAA.
“The House has done its work on the national defense authorization bill. We did it in June,” Boehner said. “Yet the Senate has failed to act.”
Boehner didn’t stop there, delivering a lecture of sorts about how the US system works to Senate Democratic leaders.
“The way this system of government works, both the House and Senate have to do their jobs,” he fumed. “The House continues to do its job. It’s time for the Senate to get serious about doing theirs.”
The GOP leader’s frustration matched conversations in recent weeks with hawkish House GOP aides. They blame Reid for waiting until the end of the year to take up the defense authorization measure, and for never bringing the 2014 Pentagon appropriations bill to the floor.
“Haven’t we done enough to these people?” one GOP aide asked rhetorically, referring to furloughs and firings within the defense sector.
“Why did he [Reid] wait five months to bring up the bill?” the aide added. “You should hang him for it!”
On Nov. 20, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., was asked if he, too, was frustrated Reid failed to bring up the bill for so long.
“No,” Levin replied.
When asked what made Reid wait five months, Levin blamed “all the things that a majority leader has to do.”