Spotlight: U.S. Senate approves 738-bln-USD defense policy bill

Source: Xinhua| 2019-12-18 05:23:27|Editor: yan
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 17 (Xinhua) -- The Republican-led Senate on Tuesday approved a 738-billion-U.S.-dollar compromise defense policy bill for fiscal year 2020 in an 86-8 vote, days after the Democrat-controlled House passed it overwhelmingly.

The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which will increase the U.S. defense spending by about 20 billion dollars, or about 2.8 percent, now goes to the White House.

U.S. President Donald Trump has said he will sign the policy bill immediately, hailing on Twitter last week that "all of our priorities have made it into the final NDAA."

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi, a Republican from the western state of Wyoming, was one of eight no votes, arguing it ignores the Senate's budget rules and will have a negative impact on the country's swelling deficit.

"Ultimately, this bill furthers the practice of passing legislation while ignoring the budget rules of the Senate and our overspending problem," Enzi said. "All of this borrowing will continue to cost us increased interest payments and will hamstring future generations of Americans."

Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Jack Reed, a Democrat from the eastern state of Rhode Island, said he supported the bill in part but had misgivings over its quick push to create the Space Force and its rejection of provisions to halt U.S. support to the Saudi-led military action in Yemen.

"Iran, al-Qaeda, ISIS and others continue to benefit from the chaos of this protracted conflict," Reed was quoted by a Defense News report as saying.

The bill authorizes 635 billion dollars in base discretionary funds for the Pentagon, 71.5 billion dollars in overseas contingency operations funds and 23.1 billion dollars for nuclear programs at the Energy Department. It also includes a 3.1 percent pay raise, the largest in a decade.

In a win for Trump and Republican lawmakers, the bill will establish the Space Force, a new U.S. military branch which will be housed in the Department of the Air Force and led by the chief of space operations, who will report directly to the Secretary of the Air Force and become a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The legislation will also grant all federal workers 12 weeks of paid parental leave for the first time ever, which many people see as a major win for the Democrats.

The House passed the bill in a 377-48 vote on Dec. 11, two days after Senate and House negotiators released an agreement over the bill. Six Republicans and 41 Democrats voted no. Many of the no votes reportedly came from progressive Democrats upset after several of their priorities were removed from the legislation.

The final bill removed a series of Democratic proposals, including language to reverse Trump's transgender military ban, block Trump from taking military action against Iran, end all U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, block the deployment of the low-yield nuclear warhead and ban new transfers to the highly controversial Guantanamo Bay detention center.

The NDAA remains one of the few authorization bills that Congress passes year after year.