WASHINGTON The Senate on Wednesday approved an $886 billion defense plan backed by President Joe Biden that includes spending plans for Ukraine and annual troop pay raises in a last-minute rush to approve funding before the end of the year.
The National Defense Authorization Act provides funds each year for Pentagon priorities such as training and equipment. The Senate passed the legislation on a bipartisan vote of 87-13. Congress has promoted mandatory defense legislation consecutively for the past 61 years.
“At a time of enormous global security challenges, passing a defense authorization bill is more important than ever,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said during a Senate hearing Wednesday. “Passing the NDAA will allow us to hold the line against Russia, stand firm against the Chinese Communist Party, and ensure that America’s defenses are always up to date.”
The bill now heads to the House, where some ultra-conservative Republicans have threatened to veto it after lawmakers dropped controversial provisions that would have changed the Pentagon’s abortion policy and some gender-equal health care. They are also unhappy with the bill’s temporary extension of the domestic surveillance program without reforms.
What does the NDAA contain?
The Senate’s NDAA is a compromise version of a bill the House passed earlier this year. The House version included provisions targeting the Pentagon’s transgender health care policy and an amendment repealing a Pentagon policy that reimburses out-of-state travel for service members who have abortions. Abortion policy is one Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., protested for 10 months by blocking all military promotions in the Senate.
The Senate NDAA includes provisions that:
- Authorize $844.3 billion for the Department of Defense and $32.4 billion for national security programs at the Department of Energy
- Support Ministry of Defense operations in Australia, Great Britain and the United States
- Extending the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative through fiscal year 2027 and approving the full $300 million budget request for fiscal year 2024
- Offer a 5.2 percent pay raise to the military and Department of Defense civilian workforce
- Support was sought for naval ships, combat aircraft, armored vehicles, weapons systems and munitions
A handful of Senate Republicans threatened to delay passage of the bill in recent weeks because of the lack of amendments on social issues.
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, forced procedural votes in an attempt to delay the bill’s passage in the upper chamber.
“Shame on Schumer for supporting the radical abortion agenda of the Biden leaders. I will never back down from a fight,” Ernst wrote on Tuesday X. “The Pentagon should focus on protecting innocent life, not destroying it.”
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., also wanted to block the NDAA package after the final version removed his proposed legislation that would provide compensation to victims of nuclear contamination. He forced a vote on the NDAA last week, but did not delay its package.
Republicans are debating the surveillance program
The Senate’s NDAA also includes a four-month extension to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a domestic surveillance program set to expire this month. The program allows the government to collect private messages from foreign nationals abroad who use US-based communications platforms.
The Senate voted it down. To block a proposal by Rand Paul, R-Ky., that would eliminate the Section 702 expansion.
FBI Director Christopher Wray has said that ending the program would endanger national security.
Some lawmakers agree and see Section 702 as essential to national security. But others say it has been misused.
“Congress has the ability to refuse any more unconstitutional American searches authorized only by secret courts,” Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla. wrote to X. “We must stand our ground and protect the civil liberties of the American people.”
House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., pulled two bills from the House floor last week after facing opposition from his caucus on how to handle the program’s reauthorization.
Rep. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., called Section 702 “the greatest abuse and affront to the Fourth Amendment in our country’s history.”
“Our Republican base is concerned about stopping an armed government, and right now there is no accountability,” he wrote to X.
Will it pass in parliament?
The NDAA now moves to the House, where it needs a two-thirds vote.
But some Republicans strongly object to the missing provisions on social issues.
“The NDAA should only focus on national defense and security, but instead it funds military transgender surgery and continues to allow drag queen performances on military bases. It’s time to go back to the drawing board,” Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md. said in a statement.
#Senate #passed #billion #defense #bill #pay #increases #support #Ukraine
Image Source : www.usatoday.com