Senate passes $886 billion defense policy bill 


The Senate authorized a record $886 billion in military spending for 2024 after passing the annual National Defense Authorization Act on Wednesday. 

The 3,000-page must-pass bill received strong bipartisan support in the upper chamber, clearing the Senate in a 87-13 vote.

It now heads to the House, which is expected to take it up before lawmakers head home for the holidays on Thursday. 

The Democrat-controlled Senate side-stepped social issues important to conservative lawmakers, declining to include provisions limiting abortion access and restricting transgender healthcare treatment for troops and their families which were in the House version of the legislation that passed earlier this year. 

A Pentagon policy that reimburses out-of-state travel for service members who receive abortions was the impetus behind Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-Ala.) 10-month-long protest where he blocked all military promotions over the policy. 

Senators didn’t include House-passed provisions restricting abortion access and transgender medical care. C-SPAN

The legislation extends Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act until April 19.

The surveillance authority, which allows for warrantless monitoring of foreigners in the United States, was set to expire at the end of December. 

The bill also provides the largest raise for service members in more than two decades, boosting troop pay by 5.2% next year in an effort to increase military recruitment and retention.

The bill includes a 5.2% raise in basic troop pay. AP

The 2024 NDAA, which sets the Pentagon’s spending priorities for the fiscal year, also calls for $11.5 billion to pushback against China in the Indo-Pacific and $800 million in military aid for Ukraine. 

“At a time of huge trouble for global security, doing the defense authorization bill is more important than ever,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on the floor ahead of the vote.

“Passing the NDAA enables us to hold the line against Russia, stand firm against the Chinese Communist Party and ensure America’s defenses remain state of the art at all times.”

The legislation includes funding to deter China in the Indo-Pacific and money for Ukraine. AP

President Biden has asked Congress to approve an additional $61 billion in assistance for Ukraine before the end of the week.

Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have signaled that the 81-year-old president’s emergency funding request for the war-torn country is unlikely to pass any time soon amid GOP demands that changes to the US immigration law be included in the Ukraine-aid bill. 

The NDAA bill also includes the authorizations needed to implement the trilateral AUKUS submarine-sharing agreement between the US, Australia and the United Kingdom.

The agreement was made back in 2021 and called for the transfer of three US Virginia-class attack submarines to Australia.

“It will focus the Pentagon more squarely on tackling national security challenges instead of creating new ones with partisan social policies,” Senate Minority Leader Mtch McConnell said of the legislation.

Six Republicans and six Democrats voted against passing the bill, including Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also voted against the legislation. 

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