Democrats are attempting to slip multiple wish-list items into the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) as stowaway provisions just before the lame-duck session ends this month. Among other amendments they seek wholly unrelated to national defense, they are attempting federal marijuana reforms.
While Democrats will retain control of the Senate in the next Congress, Republicans will retake control of the House by a narrow margin on January 3.
As a result of the non-defense amendments, the passage of the essential NDAA has been delayed. The House Rules Committee had been set to take up the NDAA on Monday. However, chair Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) postponed the vote and announced the “package is not ready yet.” Without saying when the bill would be moved out of the committee, he said it would be taken up “as soon as the text is ready.”
The NDAA is considered mandatory legislation, as it directly funds the Pentagon and authorizes all of the nation’s defense spending around the globe.
The most public point of disagreement between Republicans and Democrats during the process so far has been whether to bring a legislative end to Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all military personnel.
In June of 2021, 2 months before the military COVID vax mandate, I introduced HR 3860, a bill to prohibit the mandate.
We have gained over 90 cosponsors, and now it looks like the intent of this legislation could become a reality in the NDAA this month.https://t.co/5V9SdjgCMP
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) December 6, 2022
House Minority Leader and GOP nominee for Speaker Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said over the weekend that he is “certain” that the mandate will be eliminated as part of the NDAA approval.
As this week began, the off-topic amendment regarding federal marijuana reform has drawn more attention.
As an amendment to the NDAA, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is pushing the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act. That bill is designed to make it easier for licensed marijuana businesses in the states where they are legal to access banking services from banks that do interstate business.
The bill also creates a more streamlined process for persons convicted of state marijuana-related crimes to have their records expunged.
The Department of Justice issued a memo earlier this year urging Congress not to adopt the SAFE Banking Act. It said the law would “significantly complicate law enforcement investigations and prosecutions” of drug-related crimes, including money laundering using marijuana businesses.
Sens. Pat Toomey (R-PA), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) met with Department of Justice officials this week to discuss law enforcement’s concerns about the bill and why it should not be passed as part of a national defense bill.