Defense Bill Sails Through the House with $24 Billion Increase

Supreme Court and Capitol building
by Andrew Trunsky


The House late Thursday passed the National Defense Authorization Act after a marathon day of voting on hundreds of amendments as Congress continues work toward a government funding bill with a potential shutdown one week away.

The $768 billion defense bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, with 316 lawmakers voting in favor. It now heads to the Senate, where it is expected to pass and soon after become law as it has yearly for nearly six decades.

It provides an additional $24 billion for the defense department compared to last year’s legislation, an amount touted by both Washington Democratic Rep. Adam Smith and Alabama Republican Rep. Mike Rogers, the House Armed Services Committee’s chair and ranking member.

“This year’s bill invests in what makes America strong: our diversity, our technological innovation, our alliances and partnerships, and those who serve in uniform,” Smith said Wednesday evening, when the House debate on the legislation. “Passing it is crucial for our natural security.”

Lawmakers resumed voting on scores of amendments just after 2 p.m. Thursday, after proposals ranging from easing cannabis companies’ ability to bank to requiring women to register for the draft were adopted Wednesday.

The first amendment considered Thursday was brought by New York Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman, and required congressional approval for future military activities in Syria. It failed after gathering only 141 votes, shy of the 216 needed to pass.

The House soon after considered an amendment brought by California Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna that would end U.S. cooperation with the Saudis regarding their military activity in Yemen. It barely passed, with 219 lawmakers voting in favor.

Immediately after, an amendment seeking to limit U.S. support for Saudi airstrikes in war-torn Yemen passed 223-204.

Other amendments, including prohibiting a new intercontinental ballistic missile system and restricting sales of Defense Department surplus military equipment to federal, state or local law enforcement agencies, failed to gather majority support.

The legislation was briefly set to include $1 billion to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, but the bipartisan legislation sailed through the House in a standalone bill instead. It passed 420-9, with eight Democrats joining Republican Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky in voting against it.

The original provision was included in Democrats’ continuing resolution, their bill to fund the government through Dec. 3 and suspend the debt limit, the second of which Republicans adamantly oppose. With their opposition, Democratic leadership was forced to scrap aiding the Iron Dome after a handful in the party’s left wing objected to it.

The debate before its passage Wednesday became especially tense, as both members of both parties implicitly accused Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Antisemitism after her forceful denouncing of the bill.

“We can not only be talking about Israelis’ need for safety at a time when Palestinians are living under a violent apartheid system and are dying from what Human Rights Watch said are war crimes,” she said. “The bill claims to be quote ‘replenishment’ for weapons apartheid Israel used in a crisis it manufactured when it attacked worshipers at one of the most holy Islamic locations, the al-Aqsa mosque, committing, again, numerous, numerous war crimes.”

Democrats’ government funding bill is doomed in the Senate, where it awaits a GOP filibuster, meaning that lawmakers will have just days to reach a funding compromise to prevent a federal shutdown on Oct. 1. They also have until mid to late-October, according to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, to suspend the debt limit before seriously risking a nationwide default.

“Whatever it is, we will have a (continuing resolution) that passes both houses by September 30,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at her press briefing Thursday.

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Andrew Trunsky is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.





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