House Extends Deadline for Swamp Fox Memorial in $612 Billion Defense Authorization Bill
A Lesson in How Congress Works
by Larry Janezich
Last Friday, the House of Representatives passed the $612 billion Defense Authorization Bill by a vote of 269-151. In doing so, because of a “rider” placed in the bill, the House simultaneously reauthorized the National Park Service to continue efforts to place a memorial for South Carolina’s Revolutionary War General Francis Marion in the District of Columbia. The NPS seems to have set its sights on Marion Park on Capitol Hill.
As reported on this blog (here http://bit.ly/1vx3Uhj and here http://bit.ly/1D1W1XE ), the controversial memorial had stalled for lack of sufficient fundraising and in the face of Capitol Hill resident opposition when authority for the project expired earlier this month.
A bill to reauthorize for three years the effort to memorialize Francis Marion was introduced in the House by Rep. Joe Wilson on January 22, 2015. The bill was referred to House Committee on Natural Resources on January 22, 2015 and then referred to the Subcommittee on Federal Lands on March 2, 2015.
When members of congress wish to expedite passage of a favored (and more recently, controversial) pet project, they look for a veto proof vehicle to which to attach it. As it happens, Joe Wilson is the fifth ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, and a former aide to South Carolina’s best-known congressman, Floyd Spence, who chaired the Armed Services Committee from 1995 to 2001.
How ”riders” become attached to budget appropriations is a mysterious process, sometimes attached by a committee member during the “mark up” of the final version of the bill in committee – and sometimes inserted by staff in the drafting of the final version. That the reauthorization has nothing to do with Defense Authorization speaks to the practice of “log rolling” – accommodating the wishes of another member in return for a similar accommodation. As riders in large and complex bills, these provisions often sail through House Floor consideration and final passage unremarked upon, and unnoticed.
On the Senate side, the Senate Armed Services Committee agreed upon its final version of the Defense Authorization Bill last Friday – it does not appear to contain the Marion reauthorization language. The bill is likely to come to the Senate floor in early June. After the Senate passes its version of the bill, a compromise will be worked out in a conference between the Senate and House. Items may fall away in that process, depending on the degree of opposition brought by the opposite body’s representatives. It would seem there is little incentive for members of the Senate to oppose the reauthorization, and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee from which the conferees will be drawn.
Yesterday, Capitol Hill Corner asked the House Committee on Natural Resources spokesperson about the status of the Swamp Fox memorial reauthorization, and received the following reply: “It is part of National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) right now. We don’t know what the current state of it will be but if it is stripped out we will revisit it as a Committee again. The entire South Caroline delegation supports the provision.”
The members of the South Carolina delegations are as follows: Jim Clyburn (D) (6th district), Jeff Duncan (R) (3rd district), Trey Gowdy (R) (4th district), Mick Mulvaney (R) (5th district), Tom Rice (R) (7th district), Mark Sanford (R) (1st district), Joe Wilson (R) (2nd district).
Next: Another Slap in the Face for DC Home Rule