US Senate Begins Debate on Annual Massive Defense Spending Bill – On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate will commence deliberations on a substantial spending bill that will determine the spending priorities for the U.S. military in the upcoming year. The $874.2 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was passed by the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives last Friday, with a vote of 219-210.
Due to the conservative inclinations of the House Freedom Caucus, the bill is unlikely to be approved in the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate. However, the Senate’s version of the NDAA, which obtained a 25-1 vote in favor in the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month, has a different outlook. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer expressed anticipation for a bipartisan debate on the matter.
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“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.”
However, it is an annual requirement for both the House and Senate to reconcile their respective versions of the NDAA in order to pass a final package that can be sent to the White House for approval and enactment. The amendments introduced by Republicans in the House-approved NDAA seek to reverse a recent Pentagon policy that grants service members time off and financial support for out-of-state travel related to abortions.
Additionally, these amendments aim to remove 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.
Republicans contend that government health insurance should not encompass coverage for abortions among service members, and they oppose the Pentagon’s involvement in diversity initiatives that involve outreach to transgender individuals. However, Democrats argue that the Republicans’ efforts to eliminate those amendments are indicative of their extreme ideology.
In response to a new Pentagon health policy that offers assistance to military personnel who require out-of-state travel for abortion services, Senate Democrats have demanded an end to Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville’s obstruction of military nominations as a form of protest.