The U.S. Senate will begin debate Tuesday on a massive spending bill setting the spending priorities for the U.S. military for the coming year.
Last Friday, the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the $874.2 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by a vote of 219-210.
The conservative priorities in the bill backed by the House Freedom Caucus mean it has no chance of passage in the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate. The Senate version of the NDAA passed out of the Senate Armed Services Committee by a 25-1 vote earlier this month. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he looked forward to a bipartisan debate.
“So we can keep our country safe, support our friends in Ukraine, outcompete China, and give our troops the pay raise they rightfully deserve,” Schumer said earlier this month.
Senate Republicans are expected to call for an increase in funding levels from the Biden’s administration’s budget request.
“Our colleagues on the Armed Services Committee will be called upon to carefully consider the requirements identified by our commanders that have gone unfunded in President [Joe] Biden’s budget. They should think about the steps that could improve our ability to project power into the Asia-Pacific, or the assistance that could support vulnerable partners in the region,” Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said last month. “Remember, threats of sanctions and stern diplomatic warnings didn’t deter [Russian President] Vladimir Putin in Ukraine. Words alone will not deter Chinese aggression in Asia.
“The Biden administration can continue to speak softly. But Congress must ensure that America carries a big stick,” he added.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy hailed the funding in the House-passed version Friday, saying “cutting-edge technology that is essential for the future of this country and to keep freedom around the world in the rise of China and Russia will receive more investment than we’ve watched in the past.”
But every year the House and Senate must reconcile their own versions of the NDAA to pass a final package that can be sent to the White House to be signed into law.
The Republican amendments in the House-passed version of the NDAA would undo a new Pentagon policy providing time off and financial reimbursements for service members needing to travel out of state for abortions as well as funding for military diversity initiatives and health coverage for gender-transition surgery.
“Obviously, a lot of these amendments will be probably stripped out and the Senate will have a little different version. But overall, you know, an increase in defense spending and our troops get a pay raise. It’s a very critical time right now. It’s a dangerous world,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul told reporters.
Five House Republican-led attempts to end U.S. aid to Ukraine failed last week. Most Republicans voted with Democrats to pass $300 million in funding for Ukraine. But conservatives did score several victories against the Biden administration.
“Taxpayer money is provided to the DOD [Department of Defense] and intended to provide for our national defense and our national security. It is not, not to promote and support the Biden administration’s radical, immoral, pro-abortion agenda,” Republican lawmaker Ronny Jackson told reporters Friday.
Republicans argue government health insurance should not cover abortions for service members and the Pentagon should not lead diversity initiatives that include outreach to transgender people. But Democrats said Republicans’ attempts to kill those amendments were another example of the party’s extremism.
“It is woefully irresponsible that extreme MAGA Republicans have hijacked a bipartisan bill that is essential to our national security and taken it over and weaponized it in order to jam their extreme right-wing ideology down the throats of the American people,” Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries said Friday.
Senate Democrats have called for an end to Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville’s block on military nominations in protest of a new Pentagon health policy providing support to members of the military who need to travel out of state to obtain an abortion.
Source : VOANEWS