The Washington Senate on Wednesday passed an $886 billion defense policy plan backed by President Joe Biden, which includes a spending plan for Ukraine and an annual pay increase for troops in a last-minute push to authorize funding before the end of the year.
The National Defense Authorization Act provides funding each year for Pentagon priorities such as training and equipment. The Senate passed the legislation on a bipartisan vote of 87-13., Congress has consistently advanced mandatory defense legislation for the past 61 years.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “At a time of great crisis to global security, the defense authorization bill is more important than ever,” Trump said in the Senate on Wednesday. “Passing the NDA enables us to hold the line against Russia, stand firm against the Chinese Communist Party, and ensure that America’s defense remains state-of-the-art at all times.”
The bill is now in the House, where some ultraconservative Republicans have threatened to block it after lawmakers removed controversial provisions that would have modified the Pentagon’s abortion policy and some gender-affirming health care. They are also unhappy with the temporary extension of the domestic surveillance program included in the bill without reforms.
What is in NDAA?
The Senate’s NDAA is a compromise version of a bill the House passed earlier this year. The House version includes provisions targeting transgender health care policies at the Pentagon and an amendment that would repeal a Pentagon policy that reimburses out-of-state travel for service members who get abortions. Opposition to the abortion policy led Senator Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., to block all military promotions in the Senate for 10 months.
The Senate NDAA includes provisions that:
- Authorize $844.3 billion for the Department of Defense and $32.4 billion for national security programs within the Department of Energy
- Support Department of Defense activities between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States
- Extend the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative through FY 2027 and authorize a full budget request of $300 million in FY 2024
- Provide a 5.2 percent pay increase for military service members and the Department of Defense civilian workforce
- Support requested funding for naval ships, fighter aircraft, armored vehicles, weapons systems and munitions
A handful of Senate Republicans had threatened to delay the bill’s passage in the past few weeks due to the lack of amendments on social issues.
Senator Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, forced a procedural vote in an attempt to delay passage of the bill in the upper chamber.
“Schumer should be ashamed for supporting the Biden administration’s radical abortion agenda. I never back down from a fight,” Ernst wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. The Pentagon should focus on protecting innocent life, not destroying it.
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-MO, also considered blocking the NDAA package because the final version removed his proposed legislation, which would have provided compensation for victims of nuclear contamination. He pressed for a procedural vote on the NDAA last week, but failed to delay its package.
Republicans debate surveillance program
The Senate’s NDAA also includes a four-month extension of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a domestic surveillance program that is set to expire this month. This program allows the government to collect private messages of foreign nationals who are using US-based messaging platforms.
The Senate voted to block an amendment proposed by Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., that would remove the Section 702 expansion.
FBI Director Christopher Wray has said that allowing the program to expire would jeopardize national security.
Some lawmakers agree and consider Section 702 necessary to keep the country safe. But others say it has been misused.
“Congress has a chance to say there will be no more unconstitutional searches on Americans authorized only by secret courts,” said Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., written on x, “We must stand our word and protect the civil liberties of Americans.”
House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La. withdrew two bills from consideration on the House floor last week after facing opposition within their caucus over how to address reauthorization of the program.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., called Section 702 “the greatest abuse and violation of the Fourth Amendment in the history of our country.”
“Our Republican base is worried about gunning down the government and having no accountability right now,” he said. written on x,
Will it pass in the House?
The NDAA will now head to the House where it will need a two-thirds vote to pass.
But there is strong opposition among some Republicans over the missing provisions on social issues.
“The sole focus of the NDAA should be on national defense and security issues, but instead it funds transgender surgery in the military and still allows drag queen shows on military bases. Time to go back to the drawing board,” Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., said in a statement.
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