By Senator Marco Rubio
The Tampa Tribune
December 6, 2013
When the Senate reconvenes next week, its dysfunction will again be on display as it considers the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), major legislation that spells out our priorities for most national security and military matters.
Given the complexity of our military and the myriad security challenges we face, this should be an opportunity to have robust debates on a wide range of issues. In the past, this has normally been the case, but there is nothing normal about today’s dysfunctional Senate.
In this case, the Senate’s Democratic majority leadership is drastically limiting debate and amendment opportunities on the NDAA, except for a few hand-picked issues. In the real world, this means that many worthy ideas with bipartisan — in some cases almost universal — support won’t ever see the light of day.
For example, I’ve joined one Democratic colleague, Jon Tester from Montana, in an effort to raise the salaries of active duty military personnel by 1.8 percent. In its current form, the NDAA includes President Obama’s original budget request for a 1.0 percent increase — even though a 2004 law requires that this year’s increase be 1.8 percent. During this time of record debt, we believe doing right by our service members, their families and existing law is our duty to them; therefore, we’ve offered a spending offset that prioritizes this pay increase.
Unfortunately, even with broad bipartisan support, the Senate’s Democratic leadership has decided to block any consideration of this measure, short changing our troops in the process.
Another example of how Washington’s dysfunction stands in the way of helping our military and veterans is evident in a measure I’m pursuing with Elizabeth Warren, one of my Democratic colleagues from Massachusetts.
We’ve proposed stronger financial protections for veterans being targeted by scams in the Department of Veterans Administration’s Aid and Assistance Benefit, which helps pay for assisted living or in-home personal care for eligible veterans. Our legislation directs the VA to work with other federal agencies and states to crack down on scam artists who are exploiting our elderly veterans by charging unnecessary fees for this benefit and sometimes taking control of veterans’ assets.
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