National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal 2008 (H.R. 1585), Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) amendment to express the sense of Congress on the minimum periods between deployment to combat of active-duty troops and reservists/On approving the amendment
senate Roll Call 342 Sep 19, 2007
This vote was on a nonbinding resolution that would have expressed the sense of Congress that the Department of Defense (DOD) should put into place troop management policies that allow active-duty service members as well as reservists to spend as much time at home as they do deployed in combat.
Offered by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) as an amendment to legislation setting policy for DOD for fiscal 2008, the measure would have directed the Pentagon to implement the "dwell time" ratios that were outlined in a binding resolution offered by Sens. Jim Webb (D-Va.) and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.). Webb and Hagel's amendment, which would have had the force of law, failed to pass the Senate. (See Roll Call 241.) McCain's version would not have had the force of law.
McCain said his amendment would suggest that, "consistent with wartime requirements, DOD should put into place force management policies that reflect the dwell time ratios in the Webb amendment."
"The amendment is clear, however, that such dwell time policies cannot be implemented if to do so would prevent mission accomplishment or harm other members of the force," McCain said, adding, "That is why it includes a certification requirement that would have the Secretary of Defense assure Congress that such a policy would not result in extending deployments of units or members beyond their current scheduled rotation."
McCain's amendment also included a waiver provision that would have allowed the secretary of Defense to waive the requirements of any existing dwell time policy if he determined doing so was in the interest of national security.
During debate on the Webb-Hagel amendment Republicans asserted as one of their principle arguments that Congress should not attempt to micromanage the president's conduct of war. Democrats shot back that not only was it within Congress' authority, the Constitution demands that the legislative branch oversee how the wars are managed.
And also during that debate, McCain himself asserted that the military couldn't implement the dwell time provisions called for in Webb's amendment without beginning a pull out of troops from Iraq, because the armed forces simply did not have enough personnel to give its members the rest time called for in that amendment and maintain the current levels of troops in Iraq. Yet McCain's amendment was essentially a nonbinding version of Webb's.
For his part, Webb said he was unable to support McCain's amendment, as "the first part of it is nothing more than a statement of existing policy even with the language that the Department of Defense 'should' establish a force management policy."
"On the second part, I have attempted several times to read it carefully. As an attorney, and as someone who used to be a committee counsel, the certifications required are very confusing. It is kind of gobbledy-gook," Webb continued. "I believe it would, on one level, be redundant to current policy and on the other be confusing."
In the end, the amendment found enough supporters to pass with a simple majority but not enough to reach the higher threshold of a three-fifths majority required by a previous agreement between the Democrat leadership and Republican leadership.
The final vote on McCain's amendment was 55 to 45. Six Democrats crossed party lines and voted for the amendment. They were joined by every Republican except Hagel. Thus, a nonbinding amendment that would have expressed the sense of Congress regarding minimum rest periods for active-duty troops and reservists failed to pass a by the three-fifths majority required, and a bill authorizing Defense Department spending for fiscal 2008 went forward without the language.
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