The Senate on Thursday passed its $750 billion defense policy bill, matching the president’s budget request and fully funding many weapon system requests, while setting up tough negotiations with House Democrats over the final bill’s topline.
Senate lawmakers voted 86 to 8 to pass the bill, which included additional amendments such as a provision to block funds to Turkey for the F-35 program pending a reversal on its decision to purchase the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system.
The eight Senators to vote against the FY ’20 National Defense Authorization Act were Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
“Congress has passed this critical legislation for 58 years running, and now, we’re one step closer to doing it for a 59th year. Today’s strong bipartisan vote shows our commitment to our constitutional responsibility to provide for the common defense. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House of Representatives to find a bipartisan, bicameral agreement during conference to meet the security needs of a nation increasingly at risk,” Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of SASC, said in a statement.
The Senate’s $750 billion bill includes $10 billion for 94 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, 16 above the administration’s request, as well as $24.1 billion for 12 new Navy ships.
Lawmakers also included $393.6 million, an increase from the administration’s request, for the Army’s Stryker lethality upgrade program to outfit select vehicles with a 30mm cannon.
The bill also approves the development of a Space Force under the Air Force, while also including several measures to avoid added bureaucracy and cost during the branch buildup (Defense Daily, May 23).
A substitute amendment included in the final version of the bill added an additional 93 provisions to the legislation.
One measure would block funds from being used to transfer F-35 aircraft to Turkey unless the Secretaries of Defense and State report to Congress that Ankara has decided to not purchase the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system. The move follows up on the Pentagon’s decision to stop training Turkish pilots on the aircraft by the end of July (Defense Daily, June 7).
Lawmakers also included an amendment for the Defense Secretary to report to Congress within 180 days of NDAA’s passage detailing the U.S. reliance on foreign sources for rare earth minerals.
An additional amendment also requires DoD to update its strategy on countering malign influence carried out by China and Russia.
The Senate will now face tough negotiations with House Democrats when lawmakers meet to debate their respective bills, with much of the focus expected to be on the House’s call for a $733 billion topline.
“I commend Chairman Inhofe for leading a bipartisan process and incorporating input and amendments from our colleagues. Clearly, today’s vote does not mark the end of the process, but the beginning of the next phase,” Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the SASC ranking member, said in a statement. “There are still some key components of the NDAA that we must work through with our colleagues in the House. I look forward to continuing the bipartisan commitment to enhancing national security while balancing budgetary realities in a way that enables us to meet evolving challenges now and in the future.”
The Senate is also planning a vote on Friday for an amendment to block military action against Iran without Congressional approval. If approved, the measure would be retroactively added to the NDAA.