WASHINGTON, United States — The U.S. House of Representatives backed legislation on Thursday, Dec. 8 — paving the way for the defense budget to hit a record $858 billion next year, $45 billion more than proposed by President Joe Biden.
The House passed the compromise version of the National Defense Authorization Act — or NDAA — an annual must-pass bill setting policy for the Pentagon, by 350-80, far exceeding the two-thirds majority required to pass the legislation and send it for a vote in the Senate.
The fiscal 2023 NDAA authorizes $858 billion in military spending, and includes a 4.6 percent pay increase for the troops, funding for purchases of weapons, ships and aircraft. It also noted support for the self-ruling island of Taiwan as it faces increased threats and aggression from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which claims Taiwan as a rightful part of its territory.
“This bill is Congress exercising its authority to authorize and do oversight,” said Representative Adam Smith, the Democratic chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, in a speech urging support for the measure.
Since the bill is one of the few major bills passed every year, members of Congress use the NDAA as a vehicle for a range of initiatives, some unrelated to defense.
This year’s bill — the result of months of negotiations between Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate — needed a two-thirds majority in the House after disagreement from some House members over whether it should include enhanced scrutiny and an amendment on voting rights.
The fiscal 2023 NDAA includes a provision demanded by many Republicans requiring the Secretary of Defense to rescind a mandate requiring that members of the armed forces get COVID-19 vaccinations.
It also provides Ukraine at least $800 million in additional security assistance next year, and includes a range of provisions to strengthen Taiwan-China tensions.
The bill authorizes more funds to develop new weapons and purchase systems including Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-35 fighter jets and ships made by General Dynamics.
However, the NDAA is not the final word on spending. Authorization bills create programs but Congress must pass appropriations bills to give the government legal authority to spend federal money.
Congressional leaders have not yet agreed on an appropriations bill for next year.
Reuters contributed to this report.