House approves $768 billion defense spending bill despite GOP opposition

The House of Representatives passed a massive $768 billion defense bill on Thursday, despite strong opposition from right-wing members of the Republican party.

The House voted 316-113 in favor of the bill, which authorizes spending levels and sets Pentagon policies. The bill also includes funding for women to be drafted into the military, and establishes a twelve-member bipartisan commission to review the 20-year war in Afghanistan as a whole.

The House Freedom Caucus party had called on the GOP to reject the bill to include women in the draft.

On the ballot, 181 Democrats teamed up with 135 Republicans to pass the bill, which also dealt a blow to President Joe Biden as representatives boosted the Pentagon’s budget to $740 billion, $25 billion more than Biden had requested.

“Everyone here will find something they don’t like,” Adam Smith, chairman of the House Armed Services, a Washington Democrat, said on the House floor. “But it’s also the nature of the legislative process, in this case, that we’ve created a product that everyone in this House can be proud of.”

House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith, pictured Sept. 1, led the debate as the House passed a $768 billion defense spending bill on Sept. 24.

The bill includes the creation of a bipartisan commission to review the 20-year war in Afghanistan.  US Marines are photographed in Kabul on August 21, ten days before withdrawing

The bill includes the creation of a bipartisan commission to review the 20-year war in Afghanistan. US Marines are photographed in Kabul on August 21, ten days before withdrawing

The commission will also focus on the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan and demand details on current evacuation plans.  Pictured, one of the evacuation flights on August 23

The commission will also focus on the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan and demand details on current evacuation plans. Pictured, one of the evacuation flights on August 23

The $768 billion defense bill would:

  • Give the Pentagon a budget of $740 million for the spending year
  • Allow women to be included in the military draft and selective service system
  • Create a 12-member bipartisan committee to fully assess the 20-year war in Afghanistan and the US’s future plans in the Middle East
  • Authorize $28.4 billion for 13 new Navy ships, including three Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and two Virginia-class attack submarines
  • Authorize purchase of 85 Lockheed Martin F-35 fighters to match Pentagon budget request
  • Buy 24 Boeing F-15EX jets for the Air Force, twice as many as requested by the Pentagon
  • Prohibit private funding for the deployment of the National Guard between states, except for emergency or disaster relief
  • Require generals and admirals to be out of the military for 10 years before serving as defense minister, from the current seven-year cooling-off period
  • Get a 2.7 percent pay increase for the troops

Rep. Mike Rogers, the top Republican in the Armed Forces from Alabama, added that the defense bill was crucial in helping the US keep up with its foreign rivals.

He said the bill is “laser-targeted to prepare our military to be victorious in a conflict with China.”

The bill gained support for the inclusion of a bipartisan 12-member committee that would review the war in Afghanistan, including the chaotic withdrawal of US troops and civilians since August, Politics reported.

The commission, proposed by Wyoming Representative Liz Chenery, would also require the government to submit plans on how to evacuate all willing US citizens and Afghan partners and conduct its counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan.

The commission will also focus the Biden administration on threats from Al Qaeda and ISIS-K now that the Taliban have taken power.

Lawmakers had said Biden’s original budget plan was inadequate and rejected attempts by delegates Barbara Lee, of California, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of New York, to stick to Biden’s plan by a vote of 286 to 142.

On the floor of the House, Ocasio-Cortez said, “We’ve been increasing our military spending year after year, futilely and unnecessarily, and now again, at a time when we’ve ended a nearly two-decade war. there is no reason to increase our military spending and defense budget.”

The US spent about $825 billion on the war in Afghanistan, which killed about 3,500 US soldiers.

President Joe Biden

Rep.  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, right, had supported Joe Biden’s plan to cut the spending bill by $25 billion, but the house voted overwhelmingly against

The bill also allows more spending on military crafts, such as the F-35 fighters

The bill also allows more spending on military crafts, such as the F-35 fighters

The bill also requires women to enroll in possible military service and made similar changes to the selective service system.

Although there has been no military service for more than four decades, men are still required to register when they turn 18, and some elected officials had fought to include women in the process.

Representative Chrissy Houlahan, of Pennsylvania, had defended the inclusion of women in the selective service, calling their exclusion “unconstitutional” because of gender-based discrimination.

House Freedom Caucus member Chip Roy, a Republican from Texas, said in a news conference on Wednesday that Republicans should oppose the measure.

“If you vote for the NDAA now, you’re voting for our daughters’ conscription,” Roy said. “There is no other position you can take.”

Fellow Republican Representative Mary Miller, of Illinois, added: “The Democrats and, unfortunately, some Republicans want to draft your daughters. This is wrong, and it is immoral, and they do it anyway.”

Rep.  Chrissy Houlahan has pushed for the inclusion of women in the selective service system

Rep. Chrissy Houlahan has pushed for the inclusion of women in the selective service system

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