Big pay raise for troops in defense bill sent to Biden. Conservatives stymied cultural issues

(Jose Luis Magana/Associated Press)

Big pay raise for troops in defense bill sent to Biden. Conservatives stymied cultural issues


Dec. 14, 2023

The House of Representatives on Thursday passed a defense policy bill authorizing the largest pay increase for troops in more than two decades, overcoming objections from some conservatives who worried the measure did not do enough to advance the Pentagon’s diversity initiatives, the restrict abortion travel policies and gender-affirming health care.

care for transgender service members.

The $886 billion bill was approved by a vote of 310 to 118 and now goes to the president.


Biden after the Senate overwhelmingly passed it on Wednesday. It’s likely the last major piece of legislation Congress will consider before going on holiday, although negotiations continue on a bill to help Ukraine and Israel and boost border security.

The requested expenditure represents an increase of approximately 3% compared to the previous year. The bill serves as a blueprint for programs that Congress will seek to fund through follow-on spending.

Lawmakers have been negotiating a final defense policy bill for months after each chamber passed strikingly different versions in July. Some of the priorities championed by social conservatives were a no-no for Democrats. Negotiators dropped them from the final version to get it across the finish line.

That didn’t sit well with some Republican lawmakers, although most ultimately voted for a bill that traditionally enjoys broad bipartisan support. About twice as many Republicans voted for the bill as voted against it.

You almost feel like a parent who sent a child to summer camp and came back a monster, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said in opposing the bill. That’s what we did. This bill came back in much worse shape.

For example, Gaetz said the House bill eliminates the Chief Diversity Officer position at the Defense Department, but the final measure did not include that provision.

Washington Rep. Adam Smith, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, chided the bill’s critics for what he described as an unwillingness to compromise.

Apparently you don’t like democracy, because that’s what democracy is. You make compromises and you work with people and you do it all the time, Smith said.

Most notably, the bill does not contain language sought by Republicans in the House of Representatives to restrict gender-affirming health

care for transgender service members and it does not block the Pentagon’s abortion travel policy, which allows reimbursement for travel expenses when a service member must leave the state for an abortion or other reproductive care.

Republicans have made some concessions on diversity and inclusion training in the military. For example, the bill freezes hiring for such training until a full accounting of the programming and costs is completed and reported to Congress.

One of the most divisive aspects of the bill was a short-term extension of a surveillance program aimed at preventing terrorism and catching spies. The program has opponents on both sides of the political spectrum, who view it as a threat to the privacy of ordinary Americans.

Some Republicans in the House of Representatives were outraged that the extension was included in the defense policy bill and not voted on separately through other legislation that included proposed changes to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

The expansion continues a tool that allows the U.S. government to gather without warrants the communications of non-Americans outside the country to gather foreign intelligence.

U.S. officials have said the tool, first approved in 2008 and renewed several times since, is crucial in disrupting terrorist attacks, cyber intrusions and other national security threats. It has provided crucial intelligence that the US has relied on for specific operations, such as last year’s assassination

al-Qaeda Al-Qaeda l

leader Ayman

But the administration’s efforts to secure the program’s reauthorization have met with strong bipartisan resistance. Lawmakers are demanding better privacy protections for the Americans involved in surveillance. They wanted a separate vote on legislation that would make changes to the program.

The FBI under President Biden has been weaponized against the American people and major reforms are needed, said Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.). FISA should not be combined with our national defense. And it is unacceptable that the leadership is bypassing the regular order to block members by forcing them to vote with one vote on two unrelated bills.

Matthew G. Olsen, assistant attorney general at the Department of Justice, praised the approval of the extension.

He said: “We cannot afford to be blind to the many threats we face from foreign adversaries, including Iran and China, as well as from terrorist organizations such as Hamas and ISIS.”


the Islamic State group.

Sufficient opposition to the bill had built up within Republican ranks to force House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., to put the defense policy bill to a vote in a process that is generally was reserved for non-controversial legislation.

That process required at least two-thirds of the House of Representatives to vote in favor of the legislation to pass it, but going that route avoided the prospect of a small number of Republicans blocking the legislation from passing.

The bill’s consideration comes at a dangerous time for the world, with wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, and as China continues to expand its military power in the South China Sea.

As for Ukraine, the bill includes the creation of a special Inspector General for Ukraine to address concerns about whether taxpayers’ money in Ukraine is being spent as intended. This is in addition to the oversight work already carried out by other agency watchdogs.

We will continue to monitor this, but I want to assure my colleagues that there is no evidence of diversion of weapons supplied to Ukraine or any other assistance, Republican Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told lawmakers this week when they advocated for the bill.

Ukraine’s supporters in Congress have argued that helping Kiev now could prevent a broader war if Russia were to invade a member of NATO, the military alliance that insists an attack on one member state is considered an attack on all.

The bill contains provisions of Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) saying


the President must obtain the advice and consent of the Senate or an act of Congress before withdrawing U.S. membership from NATO. That seems to be what the former president has in mind


Trump, the current frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination, who has said he will continue to fundamentally evaluate NATO’s purpose and mission.

On China, the bill establishes a new training program with Taiwan, requires a plan to accelerate the delivery of Harpoon anti-ship missiles to Taiwan, and approves an agreement giving Australia access to nuclear-powered submarines, which are more stealthy and be more capable than conventional. powered ships.


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