This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. John Mica (R-FL) that would require the military’s rules of engagement to “fully protect the members' [of the armed services’] right to bear arms” and “authorize the members [of the armed services] to fully defend themselves from hostile actions.” This amendment was offered to legislation providing annual funding for Defense Department programs.
Mica urged support for his amendment: “I usually don't get involved in armed services matters, but I did have the opportunity to visit our troops in Afghanistan in March of some weeks past…. And I said, ‘When I return to Congress, what could I do to help you do a better job? What would assist you?’ And every one of them said to me, Mr. Mica, could you change the rules of engagement? So I'm offering this amendment on their behalf and on behalf of all the servicemen and -women who should be able to defend themselves in hostile areas. I'm not trying to micromanage the military, but I have just a basic provision that says--and let me read it: `The Secretary of Defense shall ensure that the rules of engagement applicable to members of the armed services assigned to duty in any hostile fire area''--and we have a definition for that--`shall,' and then `one, fully protect the members' rights to bear arms; and, two, to authorize the members to fully defend themselves from hostile actions.'…Please help me in arming our Armed Forces and also providing them with what I believe is the opportunity to adequately defend themselves in hostile theaters.”
Rep. Robert Andrews (D-NJ) opposed the amendment: “My objection, respectfully, to this amendment is it supplants the decision of the commander in the field with the judgment of the Congress. I frankly agree that there are very, very few circumstances I could imagine where we would not want our troops in the field to be fully armed to their complete comfort and satisfaction level. And so it's hard for me to imagine a circumstance where that's not the case. But it's easy for me to understand a circumstance where the person in the field who is charged with the responsibility of achieving the mission and achieving maximum protection of his or her troops should have the authority to make that decision. So my objection to this is not the intent. I think we share it. My objection is the fact that the amendment supplants the judgment of that commander in the field and replaces it with the judgment we are making here thousands of miles away based on facts that we could not possibly foresee.”
The House agreed to this amendment by a vote of 260-160. Voting “yea” were 217 Republicans and 43 Democrats. 142 Democrats—including a majority of progressives—and 18 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the House agreed to an amendment that would require the military’s rules of engagement to “fully protect the members' [of the armed services’] right to bear arms” and “authorize the members [of the armed services] to fully defend themselves from hostile actions.” This amendment, however, could only become law if it passed both houses of Congress. Since the Senate had not yet passed its annual Defense authorization bill, it was unclear whether it would include the language contained in Mica’s amendment.