House passes $696.5B defense policy bill – BY ELLEN MITCHELL – 07/14/17 02:10 PM EDT


The House on Friday overwhelmingly passed a wide-ranging, $696.5 billion defense policy bill that goes far above President Trump’s budget request.

Lawmakers voted 344-81 on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which broadly lays out policy and spending rules for the Pentagon and the military branches.

The bill would authorize $621.5 billion for the Pentagon’s base budget and Energy Department nuclear programs and $75 billion for war funding, known as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account. In addition, the bill takes $10 billion in OCO dollars to pay for base budget needs.

Only eight Republicans voted against the legislation, which passes Trump’s defense request of $603 billion. Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), John Duncan (Tenn.), Tom Garret (Ga.), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Morgan Griffith (Va.), Andy Harris (Md.), Thomas Massie (Ky.) and Tom McClintock (Calif.) were the Republicans voting no.

The bill has a few roadblocks ahead of it, with the biggest issue in the form of spending caps as stipulated by the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA). That act sets the Pentagon base budget as no higher than $549 billion. Lawmakers must either repeal the BCA or increase its budget caps.

Democrats pushed for the latter solution on the House floor prior to the bill passing.

House Armed Services Committee ranking member Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said it is “very possible that $72 billion of what is in this bill is going to disappear between now and the end of this year unless we address the broader issue of sequestration and budget caps.”

Despite the concerns, Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) touted the passage as a “really promising step in the right direction.”

“I have high confidence that the path we’re on will be the path we stay on,” Thornberry told reporters following the vote. “I understand there are several steps to go and we’ll take step by step in doing that, but I think and hope we have a budget on the floor pretty soon.”

The Trump administration has not threatened to veto the legislation so far. That’s a break from the Obama administration which threatened vetoes on the defense policy bill every year. But the Trump White House did take issue with a number of provisions in the House NDAA.

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