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House sticks a fork in military dinnerware amendments |

House sticks a fork in military dinnerware amendments

House lawmakers served up defeat on two amendments Wednesday that would have required the military to buy only U.S.-made dinnerware and stainless steel flatware.

The votes came after Rep. Mac Thornberry stuck a knife into the arguments, saying that adding the measures to the National Defense Authorization Act would be a waste of money.


“I must oppose this amendment because there is simply no national security justification to mandate where DoD buys its plates and mugs,” said Thornberry, R-Texas, and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. “Where does this stop? Where does this end? So last year we had knives and forks and spoons, this year we’ve got plates and mugs. Does it next go to the trays that they carry their food on? What about the plastic cups that they drink from? Do we just keep rolling with this and go to the hand soap and the toilet paper in the bathroom? I don’t know where it stops.”

Thornberry was reacting to two amendments spooned up during a full plate of measures on Wednesday. The first, by Rep. David McKinley, D-W.Va., focused on domestic dinnerware, while a second by Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-N.Y., concerned stainless steel. McKinley’s measure failed 160-252. Tenney’s amendment managed to scrape up more yes votes, coming in at 174-239.

McKinley said it’s a matter of safety for troops. “It would ensure access to safe dinnerware for our military, free from lead or other carcinogenic materials,” he said. “According to the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration, there have been numerous violations involving lead and other contaminants in dinnerware coming from China and Mexico, and other suppliers around the world, leading to concerns for their use by American troops.”

But Thornberry’s nerves were steeled as he focused on the safety of the all-volunteer forks.

“It is absolutely true that we have had troops die from exposure from tainted food, and not having the appropriate tools has had an effect on the quality of our weaponry,” Thornberry said. “But I have never heard that argument apply when it comes to plates and bowls and knives or forks and spoons that we’re about the discuss with the next amendment.”

Tenney, in her remarks, made the issue less about safety and more about protecting American jobs. Her district includes Sherill Manufacturing, a flatware maker.

“My amendment encourages the free market principles of American competition and ingenuity,” she said. “This amendment does not cost the Department of Defense. Passing this amendment will prove to American entrepreneurs and visionaries that Congress’ stated support for American jobs and American manufacturing is not merely just lip service.”

But Thornberry wasn’t bowled over by the low cost estimates.

“Adding this mandate hurts our troops, because if these suppliers of plates are the best price, then what’s what DoD buys,” he said. “But if it costs more to have these plates, money has got to come from somewhere. And that money will come from bullets or fuel or other things that are essential for our troops to have.”

McKinley insisted that his safety arguments are stainless.

“This, by putting lead-free for American products, we would be able to have control so our troops, you say our troops can get sick from tainted food, they can get sick as well from the plates that they eat from if, if it migrates out of the material into their food when you put hot contents on it or you cook it in a microwave,” McKinley said. “Those things can happen with that.”

Thornberry said he wanted to know ware the problem was really coming from.

“Before we add this additional burden on our troops and what we provide to them, there ought to be a scintilla of evidence that this is a problem with the military,” he said. “Saying, well, somebody might get sick someday is not enough to say we’re going to take more money away from your needs and put it into plates and mugs.”

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