WASHINGTON — Democratic lawmakers’ plans to rein in President Donald Trump’s plans for a national military parade were rejected by Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday.
During debate on the fiscal 2019 defense authorization bill, Texas Democratic Rep. Marc Veasey pushed for the panel to include language to bar from the celebration any “motorized vehicles, aviation platforms, munitions … and operational military units” currently in use by the armed forces.
He argued including that personnel and equipment in a celebration designed to honor veterans is both distracting and potentially harmful to military readiness.
“We all have the utmost respect for our veterans and their sacrifices,” he said. “We want to honor them with a parade that is focused on them.”
Trump has said he wants a military parade to both honor veterans and the sacrifices of currently serving troops, and instructed Defense Department officials to look into ways to hold the national event.
Pentagon officials have begun planning for an event in the nation’s capital on Veterans Day, in conjunction with national celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. Costs and specifics still have not been established.
The House committee’s authorization bill includes language requiring the secretary of defense to certify that no military units or vehicles to be used in the parade will not harm current service missions or readiness. Committee chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said he is convinced the event can be held in a way that honors troops and veterans without doing that.
“We do not want to undercut readiness … but we can (have a parade) in a way that truly honors those that serve,” he said. “If you can’t have any cars, any planes, that’s not an adequate job of recognizing those who have served in World War I, World War II, Vietnam, Korea or anyone who has served in the last 17 years.”
Several other Democratic critics blasted the idea as little more than a vanity project for the commander in chief. Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., and a Marine Corps veteran, mocked the “great idea, truly a great idea” as something that only Trump — “a man who took five deferments to avoid serving himself” — could conceive.
But other lawmakers said the event could serve as both a public awareness and recruiting tool for the military, as well as an overdue thank you for veterans and troops. Thornberry also noted that defense officials have said they are looking at practical limits for military equipment in the parade, noting that Washington streets can’t handle some heavy machinery.
The amendment was ultimately defeated by a voice vote.
The authorization bill and its parade language still must be passed by the full House and survive Senate negotiations before they become law. That process typically lasts until late in the year, meaning the parade provisions could be obsolete if they aren’t adopted before the planned November event.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff and U.S. Northern Command officials are serving as the primary planners for the event.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.