The House passed the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) July 12 along mostly party lines, authorizing a $733 billion budget topline that tees up debates between the Senate and House versions of the bill as they enter into conference this summer.
The bill was passed by a vote of 220-197, with eight Democrats crossing the aisle to vote against the bill. No House Republicans supported the bill. Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.), who left the Republican Party earlier this month and is now an Independent, also voted “no.” Sixteen lawmakers – nine Republicans and seven Democrats – did not vote for the bill.
An amendment that would have cut $17 billion from the bill’s Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds failed by a vote of 115-307. The amendment was sponsored by Democratic California Reps. Ro Khanna and Barbara Lee.
An amendment offered by House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Strategic Forces Subcommittee Ranking Member Mike Turner (R-Ohio) that would have removed a provision that prohibits using funds to develop new low-yield ballistic missile warheads was rejected by a vote of 201-221.
A last-minute Motion to Recommit procedural maneuver that would have boosted the spending topline to $740 billion was rejected by a vote of 204-212.
President Trump vowed July 8 that if the HASC version of the NDAA were put on his desk, he would not sign it. The Senate overwhelmingly passed its version of the NDAA on June 27, which included a $750 billion topline for national defense spending.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) expressed optimism to reporters Friday about reaching an agreement with colleagues on the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) for a conference NDAA bill, though he acknowledged it was “hard to say at this point.”
Smith noted that he met with SASC Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) the previous week and had “a good conversation.”
“I have an enormous amount of respect for Sen. Inhofe. We have worked together for a lot of years, … and we’re on the same page in terms of getting this done,” he said.
Smith declined to say how he would work to retain progressive amendments that passed in the House version of the NDAA, and that are expected to receive little support from the Republican-led Senate or the White House.
“We’re going to get it done, and we’re going to try and respect and honor the members’ contributions to the bill as we do that,” he said.
HASC Ranking Member Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) expressed more caution with regard to how the bill will fare in conference. “There is provision after provision that stands no chance in the Senate, much less getting signed into law,” Thornberry said Friday to reporters. “So that worries me.”
Smith lambasted Republicans on the House floor prior to the vote Friday for accusing Democrats of cutting next-generation technology research-and-development funding for areas including hypersonics and the Air Force’s next-generation overhead persistent infrared (OPIR) program for early missile warning satellites.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) criticized the proposed bill in a press conference Thursday evening for having a smaller budget topline for defense than the Senate version, and for including items meant to appeal to progressive Democrats.
“Regardless of the inherent political disagreements between both of our parties, the NDAA has long been considered a sacred process. But that will change this week,” McCarthy said, adding, “This bill is packed with poison pills to appease this new Socialist-Democrat Party.”
Speaking on the floor Friday morning, McCarthy added: “The NDAA will not and cannot be bipartisan.”
Smith responded that the House Armed Services Committee is the “only committee” in the House that shares staff, emphasizing the bipartisan effort that went into crafting the bill. McCarthy’s comments were “the biggest insult I have ever heard” since he joined Congress in 1997, he added.