U.S. Senate passes record $858 billion defense act, sending bill to Biden
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By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate on Thursday passed legislation authorizing a record $858 billion in annual defense spending, $45 billion more than President Joe Biden proposed, and the military’s COVID vaccine mandate cancels.
Senators overwhelmingly endorsed the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, an annual must-pass accounting policy for the Pentagon by an 83-to-11 bipartisan majority.
The no votes came from a mix of liberals opposed to the ever-rising military budget and fiscal conservatives who want tighter spending controls.
After the House of Representatives passed the measure last week, the NDAA next heads to the White House, where Biden is expected to enact it quickly.
The NDAA for fiscal year 2023 approves $858 billion in military spending and includes a 4.6% pay rise for troops, funds to purchase weapons, ships and aircraft, and support for Taiwan, which faces Chinese aggression. and for Ukraine fighting against an invasion of Russia.
The vote meant that Congress has passed the NDAA every year since 1961.
“This is the most important bill we make each year,” Senator James Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. This year’s NDAA is named after Inhofe, who is retiring from the Senate.
HELP FOR TAIWAN, UKRAINE AND JUDGES
Because it is one of the few major bills that always gets passed, lawmakers use the NDAA as a vehicle for a variety of initiatives.
This year’s measure, which came after months of negotiations between Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate, includes State Department approval and legislation that would allow US Supreme Court and federal judges to protect their personal information before it could be viewed on the Internet to protect.
The NDAA for fiscal year 2023 includes a provision advocated by many Republicans — and opposed by many Democrats — that requires the secretary of defense to repeal a mandate requiring military personnel to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
An attempt to amend the bill to return pay and reinstate troops who refused the vaccine failed.
The bill provides at least $800 million in additional security assistance to Ukraine next year and includes a number of provisions to strengthen Taiwan amid tensions with China, including billions of dollars in security aid and an accelerated arms procurement for Taiwan.
The bill authorizes more funding for the development of hypersonic weapons, the closure of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in Hawaii, and the purchase of weapons systems, including Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 fighter jets and ships. by General Dynamics.
The NDAA does not have the final say on spending. Approval bills create programs, but Congress must pass appropriations bills to give the government legal authority to spend federal money.
A bill to fund the government through September 30, 2023 — the end of the fiscal year — is expected to pass Congress next week.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; additional reporting by Richard Cowan; editing by Sandra Maler and Leslie Adler)