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article imageMany disagreements between US House and Senate delay NDAA bill

By Ken Hanly     Nov 22, 2019 in Politics
Washington - Three issues are holding up a final annual defense policy bill the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA): President Trump's border wall, the Space Force, and PFAS the forever chemicals linked to cancer.
The PFAS problem
PFAS chemicals or fluorosurfactants sometimes termed forever chemicals have accumulated in many places including waste dumps. Wikipedia describes their economic role: "Fluorosurfactants play a key economic role for companies such as DuPont, 3M, and W. L. Gore & Associates because they are used in emulsion polymerization to produce fluoropolymers. Fluorosurfactants have two main markets: a $1 billion annual market for use in stain repellents, and a $100 million annual market for use in polishes, paints, and coatings.[5]"
When they were first introduced they were thought to have no adverse health effects but later studies showed that over the long term they accumulate in humans, wildlife, and the environment. The C8 science panel studied exposure of many individuals to the chemicals: "During 2005-2013, the C8 Science Panel carried out exposure and health studies in the Mid-Ohio Valley communities, which had been potentially affected by the releases of PFOA (or C8) emitted since the 1950s from the Washington Works plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia. They then assessed the links between C8 exposure and a number of diseases... For six disease categories, the Science Panel concluded that there was a Probable Link to C8 exposure: diagnosed high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, and pregnancy-induced hypertension."
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said he had received a letter from Nancy Pelosi' staff that said she would not bring forth a NDAA bill to the Senate. Nancy Pelosi is the Speaker of the US House of Representatives. However, Pelosi's office denied that such a letter existed.
A Democratic leadership aide said: “There are multiple open items outstanding on the NDAA. Negotiations continue,” a Democratic leadership aide said. “We are not going to negotiate through the press.”
However, each chamber's version of the NDAA bill has provisions to stem the spread of PFAS at military sites, as well as broader measures that would make the Environmental Protection Agency regulate the substance.
Inhofe says that he is wary of moving a version of the NDAA with PFAS provisions that go beyond the jurisdiction of the Armed Services Committee. However, there is a lot of pressure from the House to keep its PFAS provision in the final bill.
Inhofe has repeatedly said he’s wary of moving a defense bill with PFAS provisions beyond the jurisdiction of the Armed Services Committee. But there’s been significant pressure from the House to keep the PFAS provisions in the legislation.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said: “We want an agreement on PFAS. We are not holding up the bill, saying we won’t — that’s not my position. I’ve spoken to the Speaker about it. I think PFAS is an enormously important issue. I think we’re going to get an agreement. It’s not going to be as much as we Democrats would like, but I think we’re going to move forward to it.”
The Trump Border Wall
Trump took $6.1 billion from the Pentagon coffers to help finance his touted border wall. House Democrats have responded to that by inserting a provision in the NDAA that would block Pentagon funds from being used to finance the wall. Of course Republicans reject those provisions so a House Bill with those provisions will never pass the Senate. So far the two sides have not been able to reach a compromise on the issue.
The Space Force
Both chambers have provisions to reorganize the military. The House version is like a 2017 proposal for a Space Corps. The Senate version would create a Space Force but would not change federal statutes or officially create a new branch of the military. Neither version is exactly what the Trump administration wants.
Representative Smith said that Republicans are pressing for a more robust Space Force than was set forth in either bill.
Smith complained: “So they’re insisting on Space Force, they’re insisting on the wall. OK, we have a lot of policy provisions in our bill as well ... not going to war with Iran; not discriminating against transgender people; doing something to stop the war in Yemen. These are important policy provisions to our caucus. They are unwilling to do any of them, so they are insisting on two very difficult political asks on the wall and Space Force and giving us nothing in return. And that’s a problem.”
Given the continuing disagreements it could be some time before the NDAA final bill is passed.
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