Thursday, September 18, 2008

Defense Authorization Bill Eludes Iran Amendments

Yesterday, the Senate approved S.3001, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2009, by a vote of 88-8. A manager’s package of amendments was proposed and included Senator Christopher Dodd’s (D-CT) “Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act of 2008” (Amendment No. 5572), as well as several other Iran-related amendments. However, the manager’s package would have required unanimous consent to be added to the bill and some Republicans objected to earmarks in the report accompanying it. Thus, the Senate approved a version of the bill reported out of the Senate Armed Services Committee with the addition of two of four amendments debated on September 10 – one earmarking $89 million to deploy the missile defense X-band radar at a classified location; and one extending the five-year statute of limitations on contractor fraud in Iraq.

It is important, however, to note that Iran is not entirely absent in the Senate version of the FY'09 Defense Authorization bill as evidenced in the justification of two missile defense related sections in the May 12, 2008 report accompanying S. 3001:

Limitation on availability of funds for procurement, construction, and deployment of missile defenses in Europe (sec. 232)
“…They also said they would develop options for a comprehensive NATO missile defense architecture to provide coverage of the portions of NATO Europe that would not be covered by the planned U.S. deployment, in order to inform any future political decision by NATO on whether and how to provide defensive coverage for the portion of its territory that would not be protected against ballistic missiles, including from the hundreds of Iranian ballistic missiles that exist today.” (Page 136)

Arrow missile defense program
“The budget request included approximately $1.0 billion for terminal defense programs in PE 63881C, of which $74.3 million is for the U.S.-Israeli cooperative program of development and procurement for the Israeli Arrow missile defense system. The Arrow Weapon System provides Israel defense against regional ballistic missiles, including against Iran’s Shahab–3 missile.” (Page 251)

Prior to the ultimate vote on the FY’09 Defense Authorization bill, Senator Dodd made a plea on the Senate floor asking for his amendment to be brought up separately. Senator Dodd argued, “It would be a great travesty, in my view, for us to leave here having the other body having adopted similar language. This is the one opportunity for this body to embrace an economic sanctions proposal, which would give us tremendous leverage in our efforts to bring Iran to that table.” Senator John Warner (R-VA) objected to taking it up separately, but he did note that he had supported the inclusion of the amendment in the manager’s package. Below is the full text of the Senator Dodd’s plea and Senator Warner’s response (thanks yet again to Lara Friedman for digging it up).

DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION -- (Senate - September 17, 2008)

Mr. DODD. Madam President, I know the Senator from Michigan is maybe doing so, but as I understand it, there was objection raised to the consideration of a managers' amendment regarding, I guess, 100 amendments. One of those amendments is a proposal of Senator Shelby and I, along with a unanimous vote of our Banking Committee, after lengthy discussion. It was the Iran sanctions proposal, which took a lot of work and effort to put together.

This was a comprehensive package, widely endorsed across the country by organizations to give us the kind of leverage necessary for us to bring Iran to the negotiating table diplomatically to reduce the threat that their potential nuclear arsenal poses to us, our allies, the State of Israel and others.

I appreciate the fact that the managers of this bill had included this amendment in their managers' package. It would be a great travesty, in my view, for us to leave here having the other body having adopted similar language. This is the one opportunity for this body to embrace an economic sanctions proposal which would give us tremendous leverage in our efforts to bring Iran to that table.

To lose that opportunity would be a serious loss of opportunity for this country. So, again, my dear friend from Virginia was here. Therefore, on behalf of those of us on the committee, unanimously, the Dodd-Shelby Iran sanctions divestment nonproliferation amendment to the DOD authorization bill, I ask unanimous consent that notwithstanding any agreement with respect to S. 3001, it be in order for the Senate to consider amendment No. 5572 and that the amendment be considered and agreed to and the motion to reconsider be laid upon the table.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?

Mr. WARNER. Reserving the right to object, and I will object, I wish to advise the Senator that the vote to take place right now is on final passage. It has been agreed to by unanimous consent. Prior thereto, the distinguished chairman raised the question of the package to which you refer.

I, personally, approved of putting in the amendment. It had been my hope, I say it is now no longer my hope, my disappointment, that that could not be achieved along with about 100 other amendments from both sides of the aisle.

So at this time I have to object and ask the Chair for regular order for the vote.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.

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