The House passed its annual defense policy bill


The House of Representatives approves a comprehensive defense policy bill

The House of Representatives quickly approved the $778 billion National Defense Authorization Act of 2022 (NDAA) in a bipartisan vote of 316-113 Thursday night. 38 Democrats and 75 Republicans voted against the bill's passage.

This year's NDAA House debate comes on the heels of the Biden administration's chaotic exit from Afghanistan that saw Kabul collapse into the hands of the Taliban before the withdrawal took place, causing a scramble to evacuate as many vulnerable American citizens and Afghans as possible before the last US. The troops left at the end of August.

During the House Armed Services Committee's approval of the bill earlier this month, the committee added several requirements for Afghanistan-related reports and briefings, including support of an amendment by Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wu) that would create an independent study committee. Lessons learned from the entire Twenty Years' War.

Several other amendments aimed at overseeing the Afghan war and withdrawal were added this week on the floor, including requiring the independent commission to report on human rights abuses during the war, creating a special envoy for Afghan refugees, and requiring an inspector, a public inquiry into the disposition of US military equipment given to now-defunct Afghan forces, clarification of eligibility for Afghan particular immigrant visa applicants, and ordering an independent study on lessons learned about security cooperation.

The $778 billion in funding the NDAA will authorize about $25 billion more than Biden proposed in his 2022 fiscal budget request, an increase approved when 14 Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee sided with weak seats or from security backgrounds. National side along with the Republican amendment during the committee's consideration of the bill.

Republicans argued for months that Biden's defense budget, which was $13 billion more than the Trump administration's final defense budget, was insufficient in the face of threats from China and Russia and was, in fact, a cut when accounting for inflation.

Representative Mike Rogers (R-Ala), the senior member of the Armed Services Committee who proposed a $25 billion increase, said on the floor of the House Wednesday. "What's the President's response to this? He's proposing a budget that would cut funding for the programs we need to deter China."

Progressive Democrats sought to restore the increase in the House of Representatives with an amendment introduced by Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) to return to the President's proposal and an amendment by Representative Mark Buchan (D-D) to cut the defense budget 10 percent.

Both modifications were quickly defeated, with Lee 142-286 and Pocan 86-332 failing. However, progressives viewed the outcome of the Lee Amendment, which a majority of Democrats supported, as a sign that momentum was in their favor in their fight to cut the defense budget.

The NDAA is a policy bill, not an expenditure bill, meaning that even if the end product has a top line of $778 billion, a separate appropriation bill with a matching dollar number must pass for the increase to become a reality. However, the NDAA is setting the standard for congressional talks on the budget going forward.

In a statement this week, the White House said it "strongly supports" the enactment of the NDAA this year, but expressed concern about several provisions in the House bill, including saying that the Biden administration "opposes the trend to add funding for platforms and systems that cannot be modernized at a reasonable cost given the need to prioritize viable, lethal and resilient forces in the current threat environment and eliminate wasteful spending."

"The administration looks forward to continuing to work with Congress to establish an appropriate and responsible level of defense spending to support the security of the nation," the White House said in an administration policy statement.

Although House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Washington Democrat) opposed increased funding, he described the common law as "incredibly well crafted" and "excellent legislation that would help meet the national security needs of our country."

Democrats have also received stabs during the NDAA debate on curbing presidential war powers and the US military entanglement, with mixed results.

An amendment by Representative Jamal Bowman (D-NY) would have prohibited US forces in Syria unless specifically authorized by Congress.

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