WASHINGTON The Senate passed an $886 billion defense policy plan on Wednesday, backed by President Joe Biden, that includes spending plans for Ukraine and annual pay raises for troops in a last-minute rush to authorize the 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 by a bipartisan vote of 87-13. Congress has advanced successive defense bills for the past 61 years.
“At a time of great crisis for global security, crafting a defense authorization bill is more important than ever,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “Passing the NDAA allows us to hold the line against Russia, stand firm against the Chinese Communist Party and ensure America’s defense remains state of the art at all times.”
The bill now heads to the House, where some ultraconservative Republicans have threatened to veto it after lawmakers shot down controversial provisions that would have changed the Pentagon’s abortion policy and some gender-affirming health care . They are also unhappy with the temporary extension of a domestic surveillance program included in the bill without reforms.
What is in the 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 accept abortions. The abortion policy was protested for 10 months by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., 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 within the Department of Energy
- Support Department of Defense activities in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States
- Extend the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative through fiscal year 2027 and authorize the full budget request of $300 million in fiscal year 2024
- Provide a 5.2 percent pay raise for military service members and civilian workers of the Department of Defense
- Request funding support for naval vessels, aircraft, armored vehicles, weapon systems and ammunition
A handful of Senate Republicans have threatened to delay passage of the bill in the past few weeks because of missing amendments on social issues.
Sen. forced. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, votes on the procedure in an effort to delay passage of the bill in the upper chamber.
“Shame on Schumer for supporting the radical abortion agenda of the Biden admins. I’m not backing down from a fight,” Ernst wrote Tuesday at X. “The Pentagon should be focused on protecting innocent life, not destroying it .”
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., also looked to block the NDAA package after the final version removed his proposed legislation that would have provided compensation for victims of nuclear contamination. He pushed 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 set to expire this month. The program allows the government to collect private messages of foreign nationals abroad who use US-based messaging platforms.
The Senate voted to block an amendment proposed by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., which would eliminate the extension of Section 702.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said allowing the program to lapse would pose a national security risk.
Some lawmakers agree and view Section 702 as necessary to keep the country safe. But others say it has been misused.
“Congress has an opportunity to say no to unconstitutional searches of Americans authorized only by secret courts,” Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., wrote in X. “We must stand up 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 from within his caucus on how to address reauthorization of the program.
Rep. called. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., called Section 702 “the biggest abuse and violation of the fourth amendment in our nation’s history.”
“Our Republican base is concerned about stopping a weaponized government and right now there is no accountability,” he said wrote in X.
Will it pass the House?
The NDAA now heads to the House where it needs a two-thirds vote to pass.
But there is strong opposition among some Republicans to the missing provisions on social issues.
“The NDAA’s sole focus should be on national defense and security issues, but instead it funds transgender operations in the military and still allows drag queens to perform on military bases. Time to go back to the drawing board board,” Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., said in a statement.
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