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Public Should Be Able To See Democrats' Countermemo, Rep. Byrne Says

Feb 6, 2018
Originally published on February 6, 2018 11:21 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

OK. Continuing the debate over the memo, let's get the view from one Republican lawmaker on this. He is Congressman Bradley Byrne, a Republican from Alabama and a member of the House Armed Services Committee. Congressman, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

BRADLEY BYRNE: It's good to be with you.

MARTIN: Last night, your colleagues on the House intelligence committee voted unanimously to release the Democratic memo that rebuts the claim of the Republican memo that alleges bias within the FBI. Do you think President Trump should allow that Democratic memo to be released?

BYRNE: I have not seen the memo, so I can't tell you exactly what's in it. But I trust the process that the House intelligence committee is following, both on the Republican memo and the Democratic memo. And if the Democratic memo is similar in form in the way they put it together to the Republican memo, then yes, I hope the president will release it because I think it's important for the people of America to see all of this and understand all of this. And only when you see and understand all of it do you get a true picture of the fact that we've got some potential abuse of the FISA Title I process.

MARTIN: All right. I want to switch gears now and talk about the ongoing budget debate because Congress faces yet another deadline. You all have to come up with a budget plan before Thursday or the government shuts down. We've heard this story before. So House Republicans met last night to figure out how to avoid this. What can you tell us about what happened in that meeting?

BYRNE: Well, it was a good meeting. In fact, it was a short meeting because what leadership presented to the conference was acceptable to the vast majority of us, which is that we are going to send the fifth continuing resolution for this fiscal year over to the Senate. But we're going to include in it an appropriations bill for the defense of the United States of America so that that will be permanently funded through the rest of this fiscal year.

Now, why is that important? That's important because the military can't do the things they have to do to defend this country on continuing resolutions. You can't buy ships and helicopters and jets and major munitions. We can't do the readiness training that our troops need. So it's critically important that we get at least that part done. And in addition to that, we've got to break this process that we're in right now. The fifth CR is ridiculous.

MARTIN: Yeah, I heard you laughing as you said that. And I want to ask you about how to break that cycle. But first, so you say this plan is to give the Defense Department the ability to plan long term, something they need. This is also going to mean an increase to the Pentagon budget by $30 billion. But Democrats will point to the fact that there are other federal agencies - Education, Housing and Urban Development, other agencies - that also need that ability to plan long term. Why should the military be exempted while these other agencies are forced to live in this short-term resolution cycle?

BYRNE: Well, the only reason - others have forced us to live on a short-term resolution cycle is that we can't get an agreement with the Democrats on those parts of the government because they're holding those hostage to try to get an immigration deal. We've got an agreement on the defense topline. We put in the National Defense Authorization Act that passed both houses by huge bipartisan majorities. The president signed it. So that was resolved. Let's get that funded. And then let's spend all of the rest of our time focusing on getting the rest of the government decided and funded as well.

It is an embarrassment that we have to do a CR on any part of the federal government, but it's a huge problem for the defense of the country. And I think it's appropriate now that we've got an agreement on the top line. We should go ahead and appropriate that money. And that takes that off the table so we can focus on the rest of the government.

MARTIN: The House is expected to vote on this proposal today, although it's not likely to pass in the Senate. So then what happens? I mean, where ultimately is the compromise going to occur?

BYRNE: This defense appropriations bill will be the fourth form we've sent to the Senate. And at some point, the Senate's got to start acting like the body they're required to be under the Constitution. This is one of the most fundamental things that Congress does, which is to fund the government. And the problem we've got over there is that Senator Schumer is trying to hold up funding the government, particularly the military, to get some leverage on these talks on immigration. It's totally inappropriate.

MARTIN: But why can't both happen? Why can't both happen?

BYRNE: Well, they can both happen, but you've got to have people that are willing to sit down and negotiate in good faith to get there. I mean, we've heard all this time about the DREAMers. And the president comes out and says, all right, let's increase the number to 1.8 million DREAMers and give them a easy path to citizenship. And that's immediately rejected by the Democrats, which leads me to conclude that the Democrats aren't really serious about taking care of the DREAMers. They're just trying to use this as an election-year ploy. We need to get our job done. And the most important thing we do besides defending the country is funding the government.

MARTIN: Although you know the Republicans have been accused of the same thing in an election year of using the continuing resolutions to further political aims. This is the game, so how do you stop it?

BYRNE: Well, this is my fifth year here. So, you know, I've been seeing these CRs over and over again. I don't care which side does it. It's bad for the government. And it's particularly bad for the United States military. The House passed every one of our appropriations bills before the end of the last fiscal year, sent them over to the Senate. And we keep doing that, and the Senate does nothing. The breakdown, the dysfunction is in the Senate. Until they get their act together, I don't know what else we can do in the House but keep trying to find new and different ways to send things over to them that they can use to fund the government on a permanent basis.

MARTIN: We'll have to leave it there. Congressman Bradley Byrne, Republican of Alabama. Thanks so much for your time this morning, sir.

BYRNE: Great to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.