Senate makes good on promise to pass Pentagon bill before break, tees up battle with House

Senate makes good on promise to pass Pentagon bill before break, tees up battle with House

The Democrat-controlled Senate passed its version of an annual Pentagon policy bill, setting up a battle with the GOP-led House when the chambers meet to reconcile the bills. 

Lawmakers in the upper chamber voted 86-11 on their version of the $886 billion National Defense Authorization Act. 

Six Democrats, four Republicans and one independent, Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, voted against the measure. 

The Democrats who voted against the package included Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Peter Welch of Vermont, Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden of Oregon. 

Republicans who voted against the bill were Sens. Mike Braun of Indiana, Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky and J.D. Vance of Ohio. 

The Senate’s version of the NDAA advanced the past two weeks with little of the drama that permeated the House’s version this month. 

Senators, Democrat and Republican alike, promised that the measure would be finished before the August recess. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer noted the difference in remarks on the Senate floor Thursday. The House is “throwing partisan legislation on the floor that has no chance of passing,” Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat, said. “The contrast is glaring.”

The upper chamber’s version included amendments to blacklist the sale of farmland to China, Russia, Iran and North Korea, $300 million in Ukraine assistance and $9.1 billion to a variety of provisions meant to bolster competitiveness against China. 

The Senate’s version of the NDAA does have some similarities to the House version, like the $886 billion spending authorization that is in line with President Biden’s request. It also includes a 5.6% pay raise to service members. 

Both chambers were resolved to not prevent funding for Ukraine, with numerous measures being shot down in blowout votes.

However, the Senate’s version of the NDAA proves starkly different in other areas from the House’s offering, which Republican lawmakers used as a vehicle to eliminate woke Pentagon policies. 

Those hot-button measures include provisions to halt the Pentagon’s policy to reimburse service members who travel for an abortion, strip funding from diversity, equity and inclusion positions, and prevent military amendments from paying for transgender-related medical procedures and treatments. 

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, said he had spoken with Mr. Schumer about getting each chamber’s respective NDAAs to the conference. 

Many of the partisan amendments tacked onto the House’s NDAA will be redline issues for Senate Democrats, setting up a fight when the chambers reconcile the bills in the coming months. 

Mr. McCarthy said he hoped the House and Senate could reconcile their slate of 12 government funding bills. So far, the House has passed one spending measure while the Senate has advanced all 12 out of committee. 

If the spending bills are not agreed on and sent to Mr. Biden’s desk by the end of September, a partial government shutdown or stopgap measure to continue work on spending issues could be implemented. 

“Leader Schumer had the same commitment that I had,” Mr. McCarthy told reporters. “Let’s get this work done, and let’s try to get it done before September 30.”

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