Big pay raise for troops in defense bill sent to Biden. Conservatives shy away from cultural issues

WASHINGTON (AP) House approved a defense bill on Thursday that would allow the largest pay increase for the troops in more than two decades, overriding objections from some conservatives who worried that the measure did not go far enough to limit Pentagon diversity initiatives, abortion travel policies and gender-affirming health care for transgender people. service members.

The $886 billion bill passed by a vote of 310-118, and now it goes President Joe Biden after the senate overwhelmingly over that wednesday. It is likely that Congress will consider one last major piece of legislation before going on recess, even as negotiations on the relief bill continue. Ukraine and Israel and improve border security.

The required expenses are about 3 percent more than the previous year. The bill serves as a blueprint for programs that Congress will seek to fund through subsequent spending bills.

Lawmakers have been negotiating the final defense policy bill for months after each chamber approved strikingly different versions in July. Some of the priorities advocated by social conservatives were off-limits to Democrats. Negotiators dropped them from the final version to get it over the finish line.

That didn’t sit well with some Republican lawmakers, though most ended up voting in favor of the bill, which traditionally has broad, bipartisan support. About twice as many Republicans voted for the bill as voted against it.

You almost feel like a parent who sent a kid to summer camp and they came back a monster, Rep. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., said in opposing the bill. So we did. This bill came back in much worse shape.

As an example, Gaetz said the House bill would eliminate the position of chief diversity officer at the Defense Department, but the final measure did not include that provision.

Representative Adam Smith of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, blasted critics of the bills for what he described as an unwillingness to compromise.

Apparently you don’t like democracy because that’s what democracy is. You compromise and you work with people and you do it all the time, Smith said.

Notably, the bill does not include language that House Republicans seek to limit gender-affirming health care for transgender service members, and it does not block Pentagons. abortion trip a policy that allows travel expenses to be reimbursed when a service member must travel out of state for an abortion or other reproductive care.

Republicans won some concessions on diversity and inclusion training in the military. For example, the bill freezes hiring for such training until a full accounting of programming and costs is completed and reported to Congress.

One of the most controversial parts of the bill was a monitoring program the purpose is to prevent terrorism and catch spies. The program has opponents on both sides of the political aisle who see it as a threat to the privacy of ordinary Americans.

Some House Republicans were upset that the expansion was included in the defense policy bill and not voted on separately in other legislation that included changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or Section 702 of FISA.

The extension continues a tool that allows the U.S. government to collect without a warrant the messages of non-Americans located outside the country for the purpose of gathering foreign intelligence.

U.S. officials have said the tool, which was first approved in 2008 and has been updated several times since then, is critical to stopping terrorist attacks, cyber intrusions and other national security threats. It has produced vital intelligence that the United States has relied on for certain operations such as killing last year al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri.

But the administration’s efforts to secure reauthorization of the program have faced strong bipartisan opposition. Lawmakers are calling for better privacy protections for Americans who are under surveillance. They wanted a separate vote to change the program.

The FBI under President Biden is weaponized against the American people and major reforms are needed, said Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont. FISA should not be tied to our national defense. And it is unacceptable for the leadership to override the regular order to divide members by forcing them to vote on two unrelated bills with one vote.

Justice Department Deputy Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen praised the approval of the extension.

He said: We cannot afford to be blind to the many threats we face from foreign enemies, including Iran and China, as well as terrorist organizations such as Hamas and ISIS or the Islamic State.

Enough opposition to the bill had developed within GOP ranks that it forced House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., to condense the defense policy bill for a vote through a process usually reserved for uncontroversial legislation.

During that process, at least two-thirds of the House had to vote in favor of the bill to pass, but going that route avoided a small number of Republicans blocking it from the floor.

The passage of the bill comes at a dangerous time for the world, with wars raging in Ukraine and the Middle East, and as China increasingly flexes its military power in the South China Sea.

For Ukraine, the bill includes the creation of a special inspector general for Ukraine to address concerns about whether taxpayer dollars are being used in Ukraine as planned. It is in addition to the supervisory work already carried out by the supervisors of other agencies.

We will continue to stay on top of this, but I want to assure my colleagues that there has been no evidence of arms diversion or other assistance to Ukraine, GOP Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Alabama, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. , told lawmakers this week while advocating for the bill.

Supporters of Ukraine in Congress have argued that helping Kiev now could prevent a wider war if Russia attacks a NATO member whose military alliance insists that an attack on one member country is considered an attack on all.

The bill includes sens. Provisions by Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., that require the president to get advice and consent from the Senate or an act of Congress before withdrawing the US from NATO. That seems to be on the mind of former President Donald Trump, now a candidate for the 2024 Republican nomination, who has said he will pursue a thorough reassessment of NATO’s purpose and mission.

For China, the bill establishes a new training program with Taiwan, requires a plan to expedite the delivery of Harpoon anti-ship missiles to Taiwan, and approves agreement This gives Australia access to nuclear-powered submarines, which are more stealthy and powerful than conventional vessels.

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Associated Press staff writer Eric Tucker contributed to this report.


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