“I’m worried. It didn’t get into the Senate version of the bill,” the Lone Tree Republican said in an interview Tuesday night at the Capitol. “I hope that it passes, and I absolutely think it is necessary.”
Coffman said he sensed his measure was unlikely to be approved when he was not appointed to a joint House-Senate conference committee that reconciles the two chambers’ versions of the National Defense Authorization Act.
Outgoing Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), who promoted the idea of removing U.S. forces from Europe in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination this year, made a bolder prediction about the measure.
“(U.S. troops) need to come home, and they will come home, but it won’t be in this session of Congress or the next session,” Paul said in an interview last week.
Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder, the Democratic co-sponsor, did not dispute the measure was unlikely to pass. “I certainly intend to fight for sending back all four brigades, if not this session then next session,” he said in an interview Monday.
The measure would redeploy the 79,000 U.S. troops in Europe back to the States more than two decades after the end of the Cold War. Coffman and Polis have promoted it as a common-sense solution to help resolve the nation’s fiscal challenges.
In a letter they sent to House and Senate conferees Monday, they wrote that “(t)he Department of Defense is not immune from budget reductions, and so we must choose to find savings in ways that transform our military to be poised to operate in an era of austerity and accomplish its vital role in the world.”
A GOP aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity, did not provide a dollar figure for the amount of savings, but said keeping and housing U.S. troops at home is cheaper than stationing them abroad.
The idea of removing American troops from Europe gained steam earlier this year.
Paul said “it was one of the most popular things I said during my presidential campaign.”
In April, the House approved the Coffman-Polis measure as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. Both progressives like Polis and Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and conservatives like Coffman and Paul endorsed the legislation.
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) sponsored a companion measure in the Senate, but the amendment has faced a tougher slog in the upper chamber.
Republican support for the measure was likely undercut after the Heritage Foundation released a report in July that criticized the idea of troop reductions in Europe as a misguided military policy. “From the Arctic to the Levant, from the Maghreb to the Caucasus, Europe is at one of the most important crossroads of the world. U.S. military bases in Europe provide American leaders with increased flexibility, resilience, and options in a dangerous world,” Margaret Thatcher fellow Luke Coffey wrote in “Keeping America Safe.”
Also, the Obama administration has indicated it opposes the measure. In January, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said two U.S. Army brigades would be removed from Europe in 2013 as part of a larger draw down of U.S. forces with the end of the Iraq War and waning of the war in Afghanistan.
Frank, noting that he and former Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Denver) sponsored legislation to remove U.S. troops in Europe in the 1980s, said support for the measure is unlikely to dim. “It’s growing,” he said.