HOUSE PASSES $696.5B DEFENSE POLICY BILL

Thehill
HOUSE PASSES $696.5B DEFENSE POLICY BILL, Only eight Republicans voted against the legislation
The House on Friday overwhelmingly passed a wide-ranging, $696.5 billion defense policy bill that goes far above President Trump’s budget request.

Lawmakers voted 344 to 81 on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which broadly lays out policy and spending rules for the Pentagon and the military branches.

The bill would authorize $621.5 billion for the Pentagon’s base budget and Energy Department nuclear programs and $75 billion for war funding, known as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account. In addition, the bill takes $10 billion in OCO dollars to pay for base budget needs.

Only eight Republicans voted against the legislation, which passes Trump’s defense request of $603 billion.

The bill has a few roadblocks ahead of it, with the biggest issue in the form of spending caps as stipulated by the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA). That act sets the Pentagon base budget as no higher than $549 billion. Lawmakers must either repeal the BCA or increase its budget caps.

The House on Friday overwhelmingly passed a wide-ranging, $696.5 billion defense policy bill that goes far above President Trump’s budget request.

Lawmakers voted 344 to 81 on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which broadly lays out policy and spending rules for the Pentagon and the military branches.

The bill would authorize $621.5 billion for the Pentagon’s base budget and Energy Department nuclear programs and $75 billion for war funding, known as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account. In addition, the bill takes $10 billion in OCO dollars to pay for base budget needs.

Only eight Republicans voted against the legislation, which passes Trump’s defense request of $603 billion.

The bill has a few roadblocks ahead of it, with the biggest issue in the form of spending caps as stipulated by the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA). That act sets the Pentagon base budget as no higher than $549 billion. Lawmakers must either repeal the BCA or increase its budget caps.

House Republicans were able to avoid several controversial debates in passing the bill, as the House Rules Committee earlier in the week kept out several disputed amendments.

Among those was a provision from Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio) to pump the brakes on the plan to create the Space Corps, a new military branch under the Air Force.

Thornberry told reporters that lawmakers will continue to work on the issue.

“I’m going to have a number of committee events in the coming weeks while we’re waiting to go to conference in the Senate to look at space issues, at different proposals,” he said. “I know that there are those in the Department of Defense who may not think it’s the best idea in the world. But … if you look back in history it is incumbent upon Congress to make changes in the Pentagon that they cannot make for themselves.”

The biggest debate came out of Rep. Vicky Hartzler’s (R-Mo.) amendment, which would have barred Pentagon funding from going to any gender transition-related medical care, except for mental health services.

The body rejected the amendment on a 209-214 largely party-line vote, with Democrats calling it ignorant, mean-spirited and denigrating. Republicans, meanwhile, argued the Pentagon should not be spending its money on such medical care.

The House also voted down an amendment that would have taken out language preventing a new round of base closures — offered by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) — going against White House wishes.

Republicans also rebuffed attempts from the Democrats to cut defense dollars.

The bill now goes to the Senate, expected to take up the legislation later this month. The Senate Armed Services Committee approved its version of the NDAA in late June.

That bill would authorize a total of $700 billion, split into $640 billion base defense funding and $60 billion for the war fund, also passing the BCA caps.

“There is widespread agreement that we live in a dangerous world, and we have damaged our military too much and that we have to make the necessary repairs,” Thornberry said. “I think it will happen.”

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