The House overwhelmingly agreed to the conference report for the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Dec. 11, teeing up a likely successful vote in the Senate before Congress adjourns for the holidays, and with President Trump already committed to signing the bill.
The bill was passed on a vote of 377-48, following an unveiling of the conference report earlier this week and amid criticisms from progressive Democrats that the final language gave a win to the Trump administration by stripping all the caucus’ priorities.
Before the vote Wednesday, the chairmen and ranking members of each House Armed Services Subcommittee spoke on the floor in full support of the bill, calling the process bipartisan.
This came after progressive members of the Democratic caucus issued blistering statements that Democrats had capitulated in NDAA negotiations with Republicans and the White House.
The House had passed its version of the FY ’20 NDAA in July along largely party lines, and included progressive priorities such as ending U.S. support in the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen; prohibiting the use of military funds to build Trump’s desired U.S.-Mexico border wall; ending the ban on transgender troops serving in the military; and prohibiting the development of a new low-yield nuclear weapon. Those items were among several that were not ultimately included in the final NDAA.
Still, HASC Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said in a media roundtable Tuesday that he considered the bill to be the most progressive NDAA in decades. Committee member Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) sharply rebuked that assessment in an interview with reporters on Tuesday, saying, “It’s certainly not the most progressive NDAA when you have $100 billion more than [President Barack] Obama’s defense bill.”
“Without stopping any wars, … you can call it a lot of things; you just can’t call it progressive,” he said.
He added that until the 11th hour, proponents were not aware that issues such as removing U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen –which had previously received widespread bipartisan support in the House — would become contentious.
Multiple left-leaning lawmakers, including Congressional Progressive Caucus leaders Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) as well as Khanna, declared they would not vote for the bill.
Earlier on Wednesday, Smith issued a statement in response to those critiques from his progressive colleagues.
“To those detractors I ask one simple question: Which of the provisions that did not make it into our final bill did President Trump, Leader McConnell, and Chairman Inhofe not hate?” Smith said. “From the moment we passed our bill through the House without the support of a single Republican vote, it was clear that our counterparts in the Senate and White House fundamentally opposed the Democratic priorities included in the bill.”
Smith vowed in his statement that he will continue to fight for the initiatives that did not make it into the final bill. “I know how important those provisions are,” he said. He also noted on the floor Wednesday that 70 percent of the final bill was drawn from the House-passed version. “The House firmly put its stamp on this bill, in a bipartisan way, and I think the policies we adopted were very positive,” he said.
The majority of Republican and Democratic HASC committee members all expressed support on the floor. Non-committee members who also advocated for the bill on the House floor Wednesday included Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). The $738 billion NDAA also includes a three-year intelligence authorization bill.
Schiff noted that the lack of several progressive initiatives in the bill was “a bitter pill.”
“Nevertheless, I congratulate the chairman and ranking member on their good work,” he added.
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) noted in his floor remarks that no one got everything they wanted in the bill, and encouraged members to support the bill.
“In compromising, you do not get everything you want,” he said.
HASC member Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) told reporters Wednesday that he expected the bill to sail through the Senate, noting “There’s not a problem over there, politically” to moving the bill forward.
The White House issued a statement Wednesday noting the inclusion of key administration priorities in the NDAA. “We hope Congress will send this legislation to the President’s desk for his signature,” the statement said.