House Sends Compromise Defense Bill To Biden’s Desk, Angering Some Republicans

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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The House voted on the final passage of a sweeping defense policy bill Thursday, sending it to President Joe Biden’s desk despite opposition from Freedom Caucus conservatives.

The Senate approved the $886 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2024 by a vote of 87 to 13 Wednesday night after overturning last-minute hiccups, including efforts to strip a four-month extension to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) from the bill and to include a provision from the House version of the bill into the final report overturning the Pentagon’s abortion travel policy. However, the The House Freedom Caucus criticized the bill, saying the Democrat-controlled Senate shoved it through the reconciliation process and stripped a number of “anti-woke” amendments.

It is crucial to pass this bill at a time when global security is threatened. Through the bill, Conservatives achieved major wins and ensured our men and women in uniform have the resources they need to defend our nation,” Doug Lamborn of Colorado, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement.

The vote in the House came out 310 to 118, with 73 Republicans opposing it compared to 45 Democrats.

GOP Rep. Chip Roy of Texas led a motion to adjourn the vote on the NDAA, which was voted against 307 to 23.

“We have rampant [FISA] abuses going on. And this body is just going to extend the very mechanism of those abuses on the back of the National Defense Authorization Act,” Roy said in a speech ahead of the vote.

Much of the debate around the defense bill addressed the topline and social issues, with Democrats largely opposing the GOP-backed elements aimed at paring down Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in the military.

The House version of the bill cemented in July overturned the Pentagon’s abortion travel coverage policy and blocked the military insurance from covering sex reassignment surgeries and gender-transition hormone treatments, according to a copy of the bill, but those provisions got eliminated as the Senate and House hammered out the compromise bill. However, it did cap salaries for the Pentagon’s DEI administrators and prohibit the Pentagon from endorsing Critical Race Theory.

Overall, the NDAA authorizes a 5.2% pay raise for troops — less than what Republicans had hoped for — and an array of provisions related to service member benefits, health care and quality of life, according to a summary. It also creates an independent inspector general for U.S. military assistance to Ukraine and orders the Biden administration to develop a purpose for unused border wall materials.

Included was a controversial provision to extend FISA’s Section 702, which allows U.S. intelligence agencies to gather incidental data on Americans while surveying foreign targets operating within the United States, generating concern over illegal spying on American citizens.

Separately, Congress is embroiled in tense discussions around a supplemental security assistance package for Ukraine and Israel that were not included in the NDAA. Republicans insist that foreign funding be paired with money to reinforce the U.S. southern border, but Democrats have not accommodated GOP demands.

“Today’s passage underscores our ironclad commitment to the people who bravely serve our country and their families, and our unshakable resolve to provide for a strong national security and national defense,” House Armed Services Ranking Member Democratic Rep. Adam Smith of Washington said in a statement upon the bill’s passage.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

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