The House on Friday passed its $694.6 billion fiscal year 2021 defense spending bill, which was part of a $1.3 trillion spending package that now faces a veto threat from the White House.

Lawmakers approved the legislation by a 217 to 197 vote, following two days of debate over the bill’s inclusion of provisions to block the use of DoD funds for border wall construction and limitations on the department’s reprogramming authorities.

Low angled view of the U.S. Capitol East Facade Front in Washington, DC.

“This legislation recognizes the complex challenges the members of our Armed Forces and intelligence community face every day throughout the world, and it aims to ensure that they are able to continue to meet these challenges and complete their missions to the best of their abilities. To support this forward-looking posture, the bill makes major investments in operations and maintenance, procurement, and research and development,” Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.), chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense (HAC-D), said in a statement.

Friday’s vote was split largely among party lines with all House Republicans and Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.) voting against the bill, with 12 Democrats, including several members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, also voting no on the measure. 

The bill includes $758 million to assist industrial base suppliers affected by the pandemic and covers 91 F-35s, 12 more than was included in the president’s budget request and provides $22.3 billion for Navy shipbuilding, $2.4 billion above the request.

The final legislation also restores $163 million to the Army’s procurement plan for CH-47F Block II Chinooks as well as a $235.6 million cut to the service’s IVAS future augmented reality headset program (Defense Daily, July 13).

On Thursday evening, the White House issued an official veto threat objecting to the bill’s provisions for sunsetting the 2001 and 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force resolutions, blocking funds for action against Iran without congressional approval and including funds for use in renaming bases named after Confederate leaders.

The White House previously issued a similar threat on the House and Senate’s FY ‘21 defense policy bills, both of which passed with veto-proof majorities (Defense Daily, July 21). 

Visclosky on Thursday also detailed the bill’s provisions to limit the Pentagon’s “habitual redirection of funding.”

“One DoD official in a meeting earlier this year referred to these transfers of $10 billion dollars as anomalies. I refer to them as habitual abuses. The sense of entitlement in these actions is galling and I hope that at some point the department will have the leadership in place who recognizes Congress’ constitutional prerogative and restores trust to the appropriations process,” Visclosky said during floor debate.

The House’s bill more than halves the $4 billion in general reprogramming authority and $2 billion in overseas contingency operations special authority, advising a maximum reprogramming amount of $1.9 billion as opposed to the White House’s request for $9.5 billion (Defense Daily, July 7). 

During floor consideration, the House added amendments blocking the use of funds to implement the administration’s ban on transgender troops as well as adding $31 million to restore full funding for the Marine Corps’ Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) procurement.

Lawmakers voted down a Republican package of amendments that would have removed the provision on blocking funds for the border wall as increased funding for the Army’s Joint Assault Bridge program.

“While this is a very strong bill, there are numerous provisions like the prohibition on funding for the Southwest border wall construction and limitations on DoD’s general and special transfer authorities that will draw a veto threat from the administration,” Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), the HAC-D ranking member, said on the floor. “While I cannot support [the bill] in its current form, I’m committed to working with the majority to produce a bill that can be signed by the president.”

The House had been set to consider the Department of Homeland Security’s spending bill as part of the package until House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) pulled the legislation from consideration on Tuesday (Defense Daily, July 28).