House Passes $618 Billion Defense Spending Bill
In a vote of 375 to 34, the House passed a $618.7 billion defense policy bill Friday to provide more money to military and defense operations than requested by the Obama administration.
The Senate is expected to do the same this week in their annual vote to authorize spending for programs at the Pentagon and war operations.
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is considered a must-pass piece of legislation, as Congress has passed defense authorization bill every year for the past 54.
It still remains unclear, however, if the White House will sign the bill into law.
After months of negotiating, the Senate and House released a bill that did not fully address one point that the Obama administration previously threatened could trigger a veto: The defense bill pays for programs by budgeting an additional $3.2 billion of war funds above and beyond what lawmakers agreed to spend in a two-year budget deal struck last year, reports the Washington Post.
Because war funds are not subject to budget caps, the White House holds that defense program spending must reflect as spending on non-defense programs, like education, infrastructure, etc.
As a policy measure, the legislation establishes the scope and size of programs, but actual spending must be enacted later through specific congressional appropriations. The bill passed by the House includes an increase in military spending to $619 billion in 2017, $9 billion more than Mr. Obama requested, reports the Wall Street Journal.
While the bill dropped many of its controversial policy changes, such as requiring women to register for the draft and allowing federal contractors to make hiring decisions based on religious beliefs, the bill outlines major changes to the military hiring process and the Department of Defense structure. Most notably, the bill would reduce the size of the White House National Security Council and amp up the authority given to U.S. cyberwarfare operations.
Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and an advocate for the bill, said in a statement the National Defense Authorization Act “will enable our troops to rise to the challenges of a more dangerous world.”
McCain also said the bill contains a 2.1% pay raise for troops and would add approximately 21,000 more active duty troops than the president mandated.
On the other hand, negotiators decided to decrease the size of the National Security Council from 400 to 200 to limit the amount of influence the White House has over policy operations at the State and Defense departments.
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