Senate sends Biden defense bill with $25B extra in spending

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Senate sends Biden defense bill with $25B extra in spending

The Senate sent a compromise version of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act to President Biden’s desk on Wednesday, doling out $25 billion more than the White House had requested for defense spending.

The measure easily cleared the Senate by a vote of 89-10 one week after passing the House with bipartisan support.

More than 96 percent of the funds in the $768 billion measure go toward Department of Defense programs, with another $27.8 billion allocated for Department of Energy national security programs and the remaining $378 million for additional defense-related matters. 

Under the legislation, US troops will receive a 2.7 percent pay raise, along with an increase in the amount of paternal leave for service members.  

The measure also provides $300 million for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which is meant to help provide the Kiev government the resources needed to combat aggression from Russia.

The bill additionally calls for the secretary of defense to provide “detailed reports” on counterterrorism efforts, as well as plans to assist Americans and Afghan allies left in that country following the military’s botched withdrawal earlier this year. An independent commission tasked with looking into the war in Afghanistan would also be established. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
‘I’ve talked for weeks about the importance of this legislation,’ said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the floor.
AP

The legislation will also implement stronger punishments for sexual assault in the military and criminalize sexual harassment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, with all claims subject to an independent investigation. And in a push to combat violent extremism in the military, it includes a provision calling for the Department of Defense to submit a report on the matter. 

“I’ve talked for weeks about the importance of this legislation, given the global threats and international challenges that face our country, from China to Russia to the fight against terrorists in the Middle East,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the floor ahead of the vote.  

“I’ll also be proud to vote for this bill because of the enormous impact it will have on my home state. The proud service members based in Kentucky play an outsized role in our national defense. From deploying across the world to fighting Covid-19 here at home, they do amazing work to keep America safe.”

President Biden gives the press a thumbs-up on Wednesday morning.
President Biden gives the press a thumbs-up on Wednesday morning.
EPA

An earlier version of the bill included a provision requiring women to enlist in the draft. Though that version passed the House in September, the controversial language was omitted from the final compromise legislation in a win for conservatives who railed against the language.  

While the House was also unsuccessful in its efforts to establish a Space National Guard using the bill, the final text did include language to establish “an office, organizational structure, and provides authorities to address unidentified aerial phenomena,” better known as UFOs. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) praised lawmakers for negotiating the bill on a  “bipartisan, bicameral basis.”

“After it is approved by this chamber, the bill will go to the president’s desk for his signature,” he said. “With so many priorities to balance, I thank my colleagues for working hard over these last few months, both in committee and off the floor, to get NDAA done.”

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