US House of Representatives advances defense policy bill, “culture wars” advance

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives voted 393-27 on Tuesday to send its version of a comprehensive Pentagon bill to conference with the Senate, paving the way for negotiations to address the deep divide between the both chambers to reduce issues such as abortion access and diversity initiatives.

The massive bill – this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) – authorizes a record $886 billion in military spending. It typically passes both houses of Congress on a largely bipartisan basis.

But this year, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed its version of the bill by a narrow margin of 219-210, with Democrats voting no after far-right Republicans added amendments on hot-button social issues such as repealing the Pentagon’s reimbursement policy for costs Military personnel traveling for an abortion.

The broad support for sending the measure to conference reflected many Democrats’ hope that conference with the Democratic-majority Senate would result in a more moderate NDAA.

The Senate passed its version of the bill without such provisions by a vote of 86-11.

Representatives from both chambers will now meet to resolve the differences between the two versions of the law and draft a final bill. That, in turn, must pass both chambers before being sent to the White House for President Joe Biden to sign or veto legislation.

The NDAA, which is independent of the budget laws that determine government spending, regulates everything from pay raises for troops – this year it will be 5.2% – to the purchase of ships and aircraft to measures such as support for Ukraine.

It is one of the few major pieces of legislation that Congress passes each year, having been enacted annually since 1961.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.

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