House Passes Sweeping $696 Billion Defense Policy Bill

The bill would exceed the president’s $603 billion defense budget request. But it also would blow past the $549 billion cap on defense spending set under the 2011 Budget Control Act by about $72 billion. | Getty

The House passed on Friday a sweeping $696 billion defense policy bill that would exceed President Donald Trump’s budget request and break through longstanding caps on national defense spending.

The fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act H.R. 2810 (115) was approved 344 to 81, gaining the support of 117 Democrats and all but eight Republicans.

The bill would exceed the president’s $603 billion defense budget request. But it also would blow past the $549 billion cap on defense spending set under the 2011 Budget Control Act by about $72 billion. For the funding scheme to work, lawmakers would need to strike a deal to increase or repeal the budget caps.

The Senate Armed Services Committee approved its version S. 1519 (115) of the annual legislation last month. The full Senate has yet to take up the bill.

The House measure would authorize $621.5 billion for national defense programs, including the Pentagon’s base budget and nuclear programs under the Energy Department, as well as another $75 billion in war funding.

It also would tap $10 billion from the war-related Overseas Contingency Operations account to pay for base budget items, including $6 billion to boost Navy shipbuilding. The NDAA funding levels mirror a budget blueprint being crafted by the House Budget Committee.

On the House floor, Republicans said the must-pass defense policy legislation is a key first step in launching a long-sought military buildup, though they have criticized Trump’s budget for not following through on the buildup he promised. The funding increases, they argued, are necessary for the military to dig out of a readiness crisis and rebuild.

Republicans pointed to major investments in missile defense as well as more active-duty troops in the Army and adding five new ships to the Navy’s shipbuilding budget. The bill also would provide troops a 2.4 percent pay raise, higher than the 2.1 percent increase requested.

“What we can guarantee is if we don’t fund these things now, they will not be available when we need them,” House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said on the House floor.

“The defense authorization bill is only one step in the process,” he added. “There are many more steps to come.”

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SOURCE: Politico, Connor O’Brien