Merkley Votes Against NDAA, Slams Last-Minute Removal of Provisions to Protect Americans from Dangerous Drinking Water

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley released the following statement after voting against the final National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020. Previous versions of the bill contained provisions to take on the issue of PFAS water contamination, which currently threatens millions of Americans’ drinking water supply. Many of the bipartisan PFAS provisions contained in the Senate version of the legislation were stripped out of the final bill, despite the fact that PFAS is known to be dangerous to human health and has been linked to cancer, birth defects, and other serious health effects.  

“While this bill contains many positive provisions, I voted against today’s bill for a multitude of reasons. First, this bill does nothing to take on wasteful defense spending. We can provide the world-class equipment and support that our troops deserve, while at the same time providing the accountability and scrutiny that would enable us to invest more here at home in health care, housing, education, and infrastructure. This bill fails to do so. It also stripped out an important House provision reasserting Congress’s role in declaring war, and leaves open a path to this administration pursuing a disastrous and unauthorized war with Iran. And it does nothing to constrain the U.S. development of a low-yield nuclear warhead, a costly and reckless project that could spark a new nuclear arms race.

“I am also deeply disturbed that the final version of this bill does little to truly address the PFAS contamination that represents an urgent public health threat across our nation. The Senate passed a version of this bill with bipartisan support for taking on PFAS contamination in our drinking water supply and for listing all 4,000 PFAS as hazardous substances under the Superfund law. It is wholly unacceptable that Congress decided to shelve this issue when we had a clear path to take action. While Congress delays, millions of Americans will continue drinking water that could put them and their children at higher risk for cancer, birth defects, and other devastating health outcomes. Taking the most impactful PFAS provisions out of this bill represents a massive failure and a dereliction of duty on the part of Congress.”