House Approves Defense-Policy Measure -- Update

By Sharon Nunn Features Dow Jones Newswires

The U.S. House passed its version of an annual defense-policy bill on Friday, touting the measure's bipartisan backing and its increased spending for the military, but the measure faces hurdles before becoming law.

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The bill's $696 billion price tag exceeds current spending caps, enacted in 2011, that limit military spending for the 2018 fiscal year to $549 billion. The House defense bill's budget also surpasses a spending request from President Donald Trump. The White House has expressed concern over two dozen provisions of the bill, including its cost.

The National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, lays out 2018's military policy and suggested budget, greenlights increased pay for troops and calls for more ships, aircraft and military members, among other policy priorities.

The House will need to reconcile its version of the NDAA with the Senate's version of the measure and ensure that a separate appropriation measure eventually includes the $696 billion in military spending required under the House measure.

Lawmakers also will have to decide whether to repeal or increase the limit on military spending enacted by the Budget Control Act of 2011, which originally was passed with bipartisan support when Washington, D.C., grappled that year with a potential credit default.

"I understand there are several steps to go, and we'll take them step by step," said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R., Texas).

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The Senate Armed Services Committee passed its own version of the bill in late June that required $640 billion in military spending, also exceeding the 2011 cap, though the Senate version of the NDAA has yet to hit the Senate floor. Senate leaders said they would take up the issue before next month's summer recess.

House Republicans sidestepped amendments to the NDAA that could have made the measure's passing more problematic, defeating a contested amendment introduced by Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R., Mo,) that would have barred defense dollars from paying for transition surgery and hormone therapy for transgender troops.

GOP representatives also evaded a direct vote on Mr. Trump's proposed border wall by squelching a Democratic-backed provision that would have prohibited funding for the wall.

Despite the debate, spending increases in both the Senate and House versions of the measure have bipartisan support in light of recent aggression by North Korea and international apprehension over the ability of the Islamic State extremist group to inspire terror attacks.

"This markup is an important step in meeting the goal of both Democrats and Republicans to get our troops the resources they need to meet a variety of pressing security challenges," Sen. Jack Reed (D., RI) said.

Though Republican leaders want to see the defense authorization measure passed in both chambers by the end of August, legislators also face an increasingly contentious health-care debate and backlog of nominations to key administration positions.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 14, 2017 17:22 ET (21:22 GMT)