In his first major speech as House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Chairman, Rep. Mac Thornberry struck a defiant tone and made clear the panel will block any White House and Pentagon plans it deems unwise.
The Texas Republican stepped into the spotlight on Tuesday, using a morning speech at the American Enterprise Institute to signal the 2016 budget cycle likely will be a repeat of the previous year. Last year, the congressional defense committees rolled back many of the Obama administration’s plans to retire weapon systems and alter personnel policies.
For those who believe Congress should simply swallow hard and approve the executive branch’s plans, Thornberry had a simple message: Don’t get your hopes up. And he delivered a forceful explanation of why he believes the Constitution — and the men who wrote it — and historical precedent are on his side.
“Some people expect lawmakers to just cut the check and not ask too many questions,” Thornberry said. “But Congress should not give any president a blank check, nor should Congress be a rubber stamp. It is the branch of government most responsible for the character and the contours of our military.
“In the Constitutional Convention, the founders gave certain powers to the Congress, which they viewed as the branch closest to the people,” he said. “James Madison said that “these powers ought to exist without limitation, because it is impossible to foresee or define the extent or variety of national exigencies.”
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Thornberry dived into the 228-year-old document, saying one part gives Congress “at least six specific duties” on defense and national security matters.
“Through those authorities, Congress determines the size, shape and soul of the military. The president, then, determines how to use it,” Thornberry said. “It’s not clear that everyone understands our constitutional system. Congress is sometimes criticized for exercising its proper role in defense.”
Read More:Thornberry: HASC Can Block Pentagon Plans.