Dec 15, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Senate passes $770 billion annual defense bill

Chuck Schumer

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Senate voted 88-11 on Wednesday to approve the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), sending the $770 billion, must-pass legislation to President Biden's desk after weeks of delay.

  • The original tally was 89-10 but Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) later went to the floor and changed his vote from a "yes" to a "no."

Why it matters: The annual bill provides funding and sets policy for the Pentagon. It's been passed by Congress on a bipartisan basis every year for the past six decades.

Details: The final version of the NDAA, passed by the House last week, was negotiated behind closed doors by the leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees, after the Senate was unable to reach agreement on amendments to its own bill.

Key provisions include:

  • A 2.7% pay increase for military service members and civilian Pentagon staff.
  • Major reforms to how the military investigates and prosecutes sexual assault and harassment, including the creation of a special prosecutor outside of the chain of command.
  • 12 weeks of parental leave for all service members.
  • The creation of a "multi-year independent Afghanistan War Commission" to investigate the 20-year war and U.S. military withdrawal.
  • $300 million in security assistance to Ukraine, an increase of $50 million from President Biden's budget request.

Between the lines: Dozens of amendments with bipartisan support were removed in private negotiations, frustrating lawmakers who had worked for months only to see their provisions killed at the eleventh hour.

These include:

  • A repeal of the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq, which would have allowed Congress to claw back some of its war powers.
  • Mandatory sanctions on the operator of Nord Stream 2, a Russia-to-Germany natural gas pipeline that lawmakers fear could be used as a weapon against Ukraine.
  • A provision requiring women to register for the draft.

Go deeper: Read a summary from the House Armed Services Committee

Editor's note: This post has been updated to show the final vote tally was 89-10 after Sen. Cory Booker changed his vote from a "yes" to a "no."

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