Senate passes $ 768 billion defense bill and sends it to Biden
WASHINGTON – The Senate passed a $ 768 billion defense bill on Wednesday, sending President Biden a bill that will increase the Pentagon’s budget by about $ 24 billion more than he asked for.
The bill, which angered anti-war progressives who hoped Democrats’ unified control over Washington would lead to major cuts in military spending, was passed by an overwhelming 89 to 10 majority. It includes increases Significant for initiatives aimed at countering China and strengthening Ukraine, as well as for more ships, jets and fighter jets than the Pentagon has requested.
The imbalanced votes, both in the Senate and in the House, which passed the legislation last week, underscored Congressional bipartisan pledge to increase federal spending on defense initiatives, as lawmakers cited growing threats from China and Russia and predicted an impending race on military technology.
“Our nation faces a huge array of security challenges,” said Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island and Chairman of the Armed Services Committee. “To that end, this bill makes great progress. It tackles a range of pressing issues ranging from strategic competition with China and Russia, to disruptive technologies such as hypersonics, AI and quantum computing, to the modernization of our ships, planes and vehicles. “
This focus – shifting attention away from conflicts on the ground in the Middle East in favor of a renewed focus on Beijing and Moscow – echoes the foreign policy vision Mr. Biden described this summer as he set end of the 20 year war of the United States in Afghanistan.
But even though Congress took this approach, members couldn’t bring themselves to accept Mr. Biden’s demand to keep military spending essentially stable, as Democrats and Republicans instead tied arms to support substantial increases.
The legislation contains a 2.7% salary increase for the troops and a carefully negotiated compromise to strip military commanders of their authority over cases of sexual assault and many other serious crimes. The new provision places these crimes under the responsibility of independent military prosecutors, a decision long opposed by military leaders and presidents. Mr. Biden and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III both approved the change earlier this year.
But what was left out of the legislation was just as important. The Defense Policy Bill has generally been seen as a staple, and the House and Senate typically develop and pass their own bills separately, considering dozens of amendments along the way, before proceeding. negotiate a compromise version.
This year, the process collapsed after the Senate neither passed its own defense bill nor considered any amendments. Instead, senior congressional officials have met behind closed doors in recent days to concoct a bill that could quickly be passed by both houses before the end of the year.
Removed from the legislation was a measure requiring women to register with the selective service system for the first time in American history, along with new sanctions on a Russian gas pipeline, Nord Stream 2.
The leaders of the armed services committees also ruled out a provision passed by the House to repeal the 2002 law allowing the invasion of Iraq, which has been stretched by several administrations to justify military action around the world. The repeal of the authorization was to gain broad bipartisan support in the Senate, as part of a growing push underway in Congress to reassert itself on issues of war and peace and rethink presidential powers.
But that debate was pushed to another day amid other disputes.
A provision also banning visas from anyone found responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has also been removed.
Supporters of the legislation argued that despite the turbulent process, senators ultimately united to support crucial investments to maintain military supremacy.
“The security situation with China and Russia has deteriorated considerably since the Armed Forces Committee first introduced this bill in July,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the senior official. Republican from the Armed Forces Committee. “It got worse every few days, definitely every week. I cannot think of a more necessary bill to pass now. “
“I know defense is not President Biden’s top priority, but we have shown that it is a bipartisan priority in this Congress,” Inhofe added.
The bill includes several provisions requiring the administration to provide more reports to Congress on Afghanistan, including one calling for regular briefings to assess the United States’ surveillance and reconnaissance capability to conduct counterterrorism operations there. .
The annual defense bill sets spending priorities for the Pentagon’s budget, but does not provide the funds necessary to implement the policies it sets. This process is done through the Defense Appropriations process, which is still ongoing.