Rather than address the laundry list of issues currently besetting President Obama’s military — including transgender engineering, the female draft, religious liberty for contractors and others — congressional Republicans have opted to punt on the play, while blaming a tiny wild bird.
Yes, this is a real thing … a real debate. House Republicans are more concerned about ensuring a bird isn’t considered endangered than they are about including women into the draft, funding for rebel groups that are actually harming the military, and military religious liberty issues.
And why? The efforts for inclusion of the sage grouse provision in the bill is due to concern that placing the bird on the endangered species list would negatively impact military training on western lands. The sage grouse is present in 11 western states and the population has plummeted in recent years. The President Obama refused to put the species on the endangered species list last year, and has since unveiled a conservation effort of the animal plummeted in recent years. Spearheaded by Rep. Bob Bishop, R-Utah (D, 67%), the House’s version of the NDAA currently lists this provision, while it is omitted in the Senate version of the bill.
This isn’t the first time the sage grouse has been problematic for the NDAA. Last fall, the House attempted to include the ban in the legislation, but it was eventually removed from the bill.
In response, Reps. Adam Smith, D-Texas, and Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz. (F, 30%), released letters from the Pentagon that have ensured that land-use plans intended to preserve the sage grouse will not significantly impact military training, operations, or readiness.
“These letters put to bed once and for all the silly speculation that a few birds could hamstring the greatest fighting force in the history of the world,” Grijalva said in a statement. “I hope these letters will sway the Members who may have been confused when voting for this harmful provision in last year’s defense bill.”
House Republicans have consistently refused to stand up for provisions in the NDAA that really matter — and now, it’s backfiring. As a result of this sage grouse incident, House and Senate Armed Services Committee leaders seem to have put the annual defense authorization bill on hold until after the November election, despite the fact both panels planned to finish talks about the legislation this week so the final measure could be addressed in the House and the Senate next week.
Meanwhile, it’s looking like the NDAA will be finalized during a lame-duck session, ostensibly because of the endangered status of a small bird. But those are congressional priorities for you, folks. (For more from the author of “Transgender Engineering? Female Draft? No, Congress Is Focused On… Obscure Birds?” please click HERE)