The House on Friday passed its version of the annual National Defense Authorization Act, following days of partisan skirmishes between Democrats who moved to restrict President Trump’s war authority and a Republican minority that pushed unsuccessfully for more money for the Pentagon.
After a last-ditch effort by Texas Rep. Mac Thornberry, the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, to boost the $733 billion budget by an extra $7 billion failed, every Republican and eight Democrats voted against the FY20 defense policy bill.
The bill, which passed on a 220-197 margin, prohibits using defense funds to use military force against Iran, repeals the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, and issues a 3.1% pay increase for U.S. troops.
Among the Democrats who opposed the bill were progressive Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Talib, Ilhan Omar, and Mark Pocan, who told The Washington Times yesterday he planned to vote against it because he felt the topline number was too high.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith said Friday that the new Democratic majority had produced a better annual NDAA “because we don’t believe in sending a blank check to the Pentagon.”
“Accountability at the Pentagon matters,” the Washington Democrat said before the final votes Friday afternoon.
After hours of voting, the House shot down amendments that would have barred sending troops to the southern border, slashed the maintenance budget under the Overseas Contingency Operations funds by almost $17 billion, and allowed the deployment of low-yield nuclear weapons on submarines.
One of the most contentious votes was on an amendment introduced by Rep. Ro Khanna, California Democrat, that would prohibit using Pentagon funds for military action against Iran and block President Trump from going to war with Iran without Congress’s approval.
The amendment passed by a 251-170 margin, largely along party lines, and received a ringing endorsement from Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, who unsuccessfully fought to include a similar amendment in the Senate’s version of the bill.
“I applaud the House for adopting this important amendment that sends a clear message to President Trump, who was minutes away from bumbling into a war, that he does not have a blank check to pursue another endless war in the Middle East,” he said.
The New York Democrat vowed to fight to include the provision in the final version of the NDAA.
Republicans faulted the new House Democratic majority for pushing so many partisan amendments on a bill that traditionally receives large bipartisan support. The Senate NDAA bill, by contrast, recently passed on an overwhelming 86-8 vote.
“The NDAA was a test for this new majority,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, said. “… Our national security is not a game, but that’s exactly how the Democrats are treating it.”
Mr. Smith fired back. “You can oppose [the bill]. That’s fine,” he said. “… But to say that we don’t care about national security, that we are a bunch of socialists who don’t want to work with Republicans, is a bald-faced lie.”
The House and Senate now face a difficult conference to resolve some stark differences in the two versions of the bill.
Both versions do include new housing rights for military tenants and the first steps towards establishing a Space Force as a component of the Air Force.
And both bills prohibit the sale of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey if Ankara concludes a deal to purchase the Russian S-400 air missile defense system. Turkey on Friday received its first shipment of the Russian-made missile system, ignoring repeated warnings from the Trump administration that it faced sanctions if the deal goes through.
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