House Passes National Defense, Veterans Bills with Two Kelly Amendments

May 19, 2016 Issues: Foreign Affairs and Defense, Veterans

Amendments ban funding for UN Arms Trade Treaty, dismantling of US landmines; each passed unanimously

WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives passed H.R. 4909, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017, which funds the United States Armed Forces and ensures that American troops have the resources required to successfully defend the homeland and achieve their missions abroad, by a bipartisan vote of 277-247 yesterday evening. The legislation included two amendments offered by U.S. Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA): the first, to ban funding by the Department of Defense (DoD) for the implementation of the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty (ATT); the second, to prohibit the use of DoD funds to dismantle the U.S. stockpile of anti-personnel landmines (APLs). The House also passed H.R. 4974, the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017, today by a bipartisan vote of 295-129.

Statement by Rep. Kelly on passage of NDAA:

“The People’s House has fulfilled its sacred duty to provide our nation’s defenders and warfighters with the resources they need to defeat our enemies and keep Americans safe. Among other features, this NDAA also includes a well-earned 2.1 percent pay raise for our troops and blocks the president’s ability to reduce their pay. Additionally, I am very pleased that my colleagues unanimously approved my commonsense amendments to prevent taxpayer dollars from being used to undermine our sovereignty or the safety of our soldiers on the battlefield. I look forward to the Senate following our lead and sending this critical legislation to the president’s desk to become law.”

Excerpt of Rep. Kelly’s floor statement on ATT amendment:

“This amendment is identical to the amendment I offered last year to the NDAA for fiscal year 2016, and which passed this House unanimously. It updates and strengthens the language of my amendments that were enacted into law in previous NDAAs.

“Specifically, my amendment bans the use of DoD funds for the ATT Secretariat, a body that was created for ‘effectively implementing’ the ATT, according to the treaty's supporters.

“Last August, ATT member nations organized the Conference of States Parties to the ATT – a conference in which we did not have a vote – and decided that American taxpayers are now on the hook to pay 22 percent of the expenses of this annual meeting.

“This taxpayer money would go directly to the ATT Secretariat and become part of its core budget.  My amendment prevents these tax dollars from flowing into the coffers of those who are working to implement the ATT.

“I urge my colleagues to stand with me in support of the Second Amendment and our nation's sovereignty, and vote in support of this amendment to renew the annual ban on the funding of the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty.”

Excerpt of Rep. Kelly’s floor statement on landmine amendment:

“Our military commanders have spoken clearly regarding the value of and the need for APLs.

“On March 6, 2014, the United States’ highest ranking military officer, Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called anti-personnel landmines (APLs) ‘an important tool in the arsenal of the United States.’

“Furthermore, two major studies – one conducted by the National Research Council and the other by NATO – have concluded that APLs provide crucial tactical advantages on the battlefield.

“The U.S. has taken action on APLs. We give more funding for APL clearance than any other nation in the world.  We are party to Amended Protocol II to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (the CCW), which requires U.S. APLs to be designed to deactivate or self-destruct.

“Our APLs meet those standards.

“U.S. APLs are not killing civilians. Like all weapons, APLs can be used rightly or wrongly. When used responsibly, as U.S. APLs are, they protect our forces, the forces of our allies, and civilians alike.

“In this environment, we need weapons that can protect camps, cities, roads, and bases from insurgent attack. And today, one of those weapons is the APL.

“Unless we have an alternative to APLs that is equal to or better than APLs at keeping our troops safe, we should not and dare not get rid of our stockpile of APLs.

BACKGROUND: Rep. Kelly is a national leader of the movement to stop the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). On March 15, 2013, he introduced H. Con. Res. 23, a bipartisan concurrent resolution expressing opposition to the treaty on behalf of members of Congress. The resolution earned 149 co-sponsors in the House and 36 supporters in the Senate. On May 30, 2013, Rep. Kelly submitted a bipartisan letter with 130 co-signers from Congress to both President Obama and Secretary Kerry urging them to reject the treaty. He sent a similar bipartisan letter to the president following Secretary Kerry’s signing of the treaty on October 15, 2013, which was signed by 181 members of Congress, including multiple committee chairmen. A follow-up letter was sent to the White House on April, 20, 2014.

On September 5, 2014, Rep. Kelly submitted a letter to President Obama voicing opposition to the planned First Conference of State Parties (CSP) to the ATT – a UN-backed gathering to shape the treaty’s future – due to its exclusion of any organizations critical of the treaty.

On March 2, 2015, Rep. Kelly sent a letter to President Obama co-signed by 34 new members of Congress elected in 2014 to express unified opposition to the ATT and a firm commitment to deny any federal funding for the treaty’s implementation.

On May 15, 2015, the House passed H.R. 1735, the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2016, which included Rep. Kelly’s amendment to continue the annual ban on funding by the Department of Defense for the implementation of the ATT. The amendment was the strongest version to date, updating the language of Rep. Kelly’s previous amendments that were enacted into law in previous NDAAs. President Obama singed this bill into law on November 25, 2015.