House passes defense spending bill: Setting up veto fight with Trump

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The House voted 335-78 on Monday – note: a veto-proof majority – to pass a sweeping defense bill that includes pay raises for America’s soldiers, modernizations for equipment and provisions to require more scrutiny before troops are withdrawn from Germany or Afghanistan.

Noting the veto-proof majority comes into play because President Trump, on his way out the door, is threatening to veto the National Defense Authorization Act because  it doesn’t include a repeal of Section 230, a law that shields internet companies from being liable for what is posted on their websites by them or third parties.

Which has … what, exactly, to do with national defense.

Not a question there.

“Our country is facing a wide range of threats — including an ongoing public health emergency and economic crisis here at home. President Trump’s threat to veto this legislation is yet another reckless, misguided move from this administration when it comes to our national security strategy,” said Virginia Democrat Abigail Spanberger, a member of the conference committee that worked out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the NDAA.

The package passed in the includes a measure to provide U.S. servicemembers with a 3 percent pay raise, increasing transparency in federal spending and addressing rising rates of suicide across rural America.

“This NDAA will ensure the safety of all Americans, give our troops the pay raise they have earned, and help military servicemembers and their families receive the benefits and support they deserve,” said Virginia Democrat Elaine District, a former Navy officer whose Second District is home to major military installations in Hampton Roads.

The First District represented by Republican Rob Wittman, who also voted for the bipartisan NDAA, also has a strong military-industrial presence.

“Our area is home to one of the largest populations of military members, their families, and the hardworking Americans who develop and support the platforms, systems, and programs that our warfighters use to execute their critical missions around the globe. Advocating for these individuals is one of my top priorities, and I am proud of the provisions in the FY21 NDAA that put our military community first,” said Wittman, the Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.

“For 59 years, this piece of bipartisan legislation has been signed into law as it is what is necessary to support our troops and set the defense policy for our nation. I look forward to the passage of this bill by my colleagues in the Senate, and I look forward to its efficacy for our military in the coming year,” Wittman said.

NDAA highlights

  • 3 percent pay raise for U.S. servicemembers
  • $2.2 billion to combat the rising threat of China through a Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI)
  • $494 million for the Maritime Security Program to account for impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the U.S.-flagged fleet
  • $180.9 million in military construction projects to improve facilities at Naval Station Norfolk, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Story, and Wallops Island
  • $90 million for the Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program, which will enhance readiness and support Norfolk Naval Shipyard
  • Language holding Turkey accountable for its acquisition of the S-400 air and missile defense system from the Russian Federation, which has jeopardized the security of NATO and compromised trust in the Turkish government.
  • Creation of an independent commission to make binding recommendations to the Secretary of Defense for the modification or removal of all names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia that honor or commemorate the Confederate States of America, or individuals who voluntarily took up arms against the United States by serving the Confederacy, from all installations and assets of the Department of Defense.
  • The NDAA includes provisions to address the military’s role in COVID-19 response, such as requiring the Pentagon to maintain personal protective equipment for all servicemembers, directing the U.S. Secretary of Defense to develop a national pandemic response strategy, and expanding the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ telehealth capabilities.
  • The legislation establishes a Chief Diversity Officer reporting directly to the Secretary of Defense, as well as a Chief Diversity Officer in each of the military service branches. The bill also requires the Secretary of Defense to establish a Diversity and Inclusion Council to help develop a strategy to increase diversity in the military mirroring the U.S. population, which would be included in the National Defense Strategy.

Story by Chris Graham


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