WASHINGTON — House Republicans from Colorado and Alabama engaged in a heated debate Wednesday over whether to include in the fiscal 2024 defense authorization bill construction restrictions on Space Command’s temporary facility in Colorado Springs.

Armed Services Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Ala., in a bid to pressure Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall to make a long overdue basing decision for Space Command’s permanent headquarters, included in the legislation a prohibition on additional construction at the provisional facility in Colorado Springs.

More than two years ago, the Air Force announced Huntsville, Alabama, would serve as the new location for Space Command headquarters.

But Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn, who represents the Colorado district where the temporary headquarters is located, on Wednesday sought to stop the blockage of additional construction.

“It harms our national security,” said Lamborn. “It freezes funding for any U.S. Space Command construction projects no matter how necessary. Should this become law, this provision would prohibit even minor improvements necessary for national security.”

Rogers was quick to criticize Lamborn’s amendment.

“There’s nobody who knows the threats we face to national security more than me, and that’s why I’m so enraged by this pointless, ridiculous amendment,” he said.

Lamborn’s amendment would have left intact Rogers’ other provision, which would freeze half of Kendall’s travel budget until Congress receives a decision on Space Command headquarters and a justification.

But Lamborn found himself outnumbered and withdrew the amendment in the face of opposition from the three other Armed Services Committee members from Alabama as well as lawmakers from outside states.

“I can see the writing on the wall,” he said.

Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the top Democrat on the committee, came to Rogers’ aid, calling it “ridiculous” that a decision is now months overdue.

“As they’re stumbling along here, they’re spending money on building up a potential Space Command in Colorado without making an actual decision,” said Smith. “I believe that this type of forcing mechanism will finally force the Air Force to make a decision. And I don’t care where they put it. I really don’t.”

Rogers’ fellow Alabama Republican Rep. Dale Strong also sits on the Armed Services Committee, as does Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell from the same state.

“Huntsville is the world’s premiere hub for space innovation and exploration,” said Sewell. “Colorado was not ranked two in the reviews. It was not ranked three in the reviews. It was ranked fifth in the reviews.”

The House’s defense spending bill contains similar language barring construction at the Colorado Springs facility until a permanent location is chosen. The Appropriations Committee is set to debate that bill on Thursday.

Bryant Harris is the Congress reporter for Defense News. He has covered U.S. foreign policy, national security, international affairs and politics in Washington since 2014. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Al-Monitor, Al Jazeera English and IPS News.

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