Sen. Menendez sees hope for congress in military funding debate

BY David Cruz, Senior Correspondent |

Senator Bob Menendez says all the force the Senate has put into fighting the Affordable Care Act should be focused on U.S. fighting forces. At a press conference after a tour of Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst (JBDML), where he toured facilities he talked to commanders and service members, Sen. Menendez said the upcoming debate over the National Defense Authorization Act presented the Senate with an opportunity to undo some of the lingering rancor from the healthcare debate.

“I think this one has the bipartisan support to move ahead on its own merits,” the Senator said. “Because of the challenges we face in the world with ISIS and Al Qaeda and North Korea, being able to have that type of forward deployment anywhere in the world when you need it is critical.”

Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the foreign relations committee, has been a harsh critic of the administration and of Republicans, who control the executive and legislative branches but have so far concentrated their efforts on the single-party driven repeal of the ACA. Menendez said after only seven months it’s getting late early.

“I hope it’s only early, but seven months into the President’s administration they have largely only sought to work members of their party, or with members of their own party, and that’s going to have a limited shelf life. Because on some of these issues, as we approach the fall and Sept., there’s debt ceiling questions, full faith and credit of the U.S, that’s something that Republicans have a hard time voting for, but they’re responsible for it. They have everything under their control. The President, the House and the Senate.”

Then, of course, there’s the budget. The majority party, Sen. Menendez says, is going to have to reach across the aisle at some point. And he hopes that agreement on the KC-46 mid-air refueling tankers program, for which the Jersey delegation fought hard, will present that opportunity.

“We’re working in the appropriations process to make sure that some of the military construction that’s going to have to take place for that is going to be guaranteed,” the Senator explained. “We’re looking at some of the long-term opportunities for the base.”

That includes private sector, hi-tech companies looking for military contracts and joint ventures as Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst tries to go from being on the bubble of a list of bases that might close, to being at the center of the Nation’s air defense capabilities. If only Congress could learn to get along.