The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

Brian Francisco 


The two Republican U.S. senators from Indiana apparently will split their votes on the national defense bill.

Sen. Todd Young announced Tuesday he will vote in favor of the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. But Sen. Mike Braun told reporters he plans to vote against the legislation because it “busts the budget.”

“Even though I’m for raising the wages of our troops, I’m for making defense our top priority; … it needs to become more efficient and be part of the total budget, domestic and mandatory spending, where it lives within its means. If not, we’re going to have a cataclysmic event down the road that most here seem to not really be aware of,” Braun said in a conference call with Indiana news media.

The Senate defense bill would spend $750 billion, a $33 billion increase from this year’s level. The House version would spend $733 billion.

Young offered his support for the legislation during a Capitol Hill news conference with Senate Republican leaders.

“I’m proud that it gives our troops the first significant pay increase in roughly a decade,” Young said in remarks broadcast by C-SPAN. “I’m proud that it will reassure our partners and allies that the United States is prepared to fight alongside them to protect our interests and our people. I’m also proud that this provides a measure of predictability to Indiana’s defense workforce.”

The Republican-controlled Senate is expected to consider ending debate and voting on the measure this week. Defense bills typically are approved by large bipartisan majorities of lawmakers.

“If we keep defending things that are our favorite projects without taking it into the entirety, we’re not going to turn around trillion-dollar deficits,” said Braun, a member of the Senate Budget Committee.

The first-year senator from Jasper urged spending freezes or 1% reductions for all federal departments, agencies and programs.

“I’m hoping there are a few other senators that will stick their neck out, too, to make a statement, even when you do believe like I do that defense is the single most important thing the federal government should do,” he said about the vote on the defense bill.

Braun said he opposes a proposed amendment to the bill that would require congressional approval for the use of military force against Iran. The amendment is “misguided,” he said, because “President Trump had to take the initiative” by ordering, and then calling off, airstrikes last week against Iranian targets after Iran shot down a U.S. drone.

“In the midterm and the long run, I think Congress needs to get more involved” in the use of military force, Braun said. “I think too much of that responsibility is delegated to the executive branch.”

Young, too, said he would oppose the Iran amendment after receiving a commitment from Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch, R-Idaho, that the panel will hold a hearing on congressional authorization for the use of military force against Iran. Young is a member of the committee.

“I share the concern of many of my colleagues about the role Congress must play in authorizing the use of military force,” Young said in a statement. “Rather than derailing the NDAA process and jeopardizing the many important provisions contained in it, I’ve requested that we have this conversation in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Chairman Risch has agreed.”

According to media reports, senators from both political parties might try to block a vote on the defense bill unless the Iran amendment is put to a vote.