Senate passes $770B defense spending bill in landslide vote

As has become routine, Congress was scrambling to complete its basic duties as the year’s end approached — but they were able to cross one thing off their to-do list on Capitol Hill this week.

According to Axios, the Senate voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to pass a nearly $770 billion defense spending bill that had cleared the House the week before.

The annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) will set funding levels and policy directions for the U.S. military in Fiscal Year 2022.

The measure is now heading to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law ahead of the new year.

Breaking down the bill

Unlike in most years, most of the negotiations on the final version of the annual bill were conducted behind closed doors, Axios reported, instead of in committee rooms or the Senate floor. This was reportedly due to disagreements and an apparent standoff over the amendment process and what could be added to the legislation.

Some of the highlights of the bill noted by Axios include a 2.7% pay raise for all service members and civilian staffers at the Pentagon, as well as 12 weeks of paid parental leave for all service members.

The bill also includes substantial reforms to how the military investigates and prosecutes sex crimes like assault and harassment and creates a special independent prosecutor position, outside of the normal chain of command, to handle such issues.

Numerous other key provisions of the NDAA were laid out in a 19-page summary of the bill provided by the Senate Armed Service Committee.

“More important now than it’s ever been”

According to Axios, several major amendments were cut from the final draft of the bill, such as a repeal of the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) in Iraq as well as a requirement that women register with Selective Service. Still, members on both sides of the political aisle were glad to see the measure passed.

“I am pleased that the Senate has voted in an overwhelming, bipartisan fashion to pass this year’s defense bill,” Senate Armed Services Chairman Jack Reed (D-RI) said in a statement, according to the Washington Examiner. “Our nation faces an enormous range of security challenges, and it is more important than ever that we provide our military men and women with the support they need to keep Americans safe.”

A similar refrain was heard from the committee’s ranking Republican member, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), who said in a statement:

This bill provides our military with the resources and authorities they need to defend our country — which is more important now than it’s ever been before, at least in my lifetime.

“This bill sends a clear message to our allies — that the United States remains a reliable, credible partner — and to our adversaries — that the U.S. military is prepared and fully able to defend our interests around the world,” Inhofe added, according to the Examiner. “But most importantly, it sends a strong message of support and gratitude to our servicemembers and their families, who sacrifice so much and deserve the best.”

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