US Congress vows to pass massive defense bill, culture wars loom

US Congress vows to pass massive defense bill, culture wars loom

US Congress vows to pass massive defense bill, culture wars loom By Reuters

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Published Nov 29, 2023 02:01PM ET
Updated Nov 30, 2023 12:18PM ET

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The dome of the U.S. Capitol building is seen on a rainy day as the deadline to avert a government shutdown approaches in Washington, U.S., September 26, 2023. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. congressional armed services committee leaders vowed on Wednesday that a must-pass $886 billion defense policy bill will be enacted this year, despite disputes over social issues dividing Republicans and Democrats.

“I’m optimistic we will find a reasonable compromise that both chambers can support. What everyone here needs to understand is, we will enact an NDAA this year,” Representative Mike Rogers (NYSE:ROG), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said at the formal start of talks to work out differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.

In truth, negotiators have been working for months and hope to release the text of a final bill as soon as this week.

The National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, is one of the few major pieces of legislation Congress passes every year, a practice started in 1961.

Separate from the appropriations bills setting government spending levels, the NDAA governs everything from pay raises for the troops – this year’s will be 5.2% – to purchases of ships and aircraft to policies such as support for Ukraine.

This year, the Republican-led House passed its version by a narrow 219-210, with Democrats voting no after hard-right Republicans added amendments addressing social issues such as a repeal of a Pentagon policy reimbursing expenses for service members who travel to obtain an abortion.

Republicans also accused Democrats of injecting propaganda into the military and weakening U.S. forces by backing diversity and inclusion programs.

The Democratic-led Senate’s version of the bill, which passed with broad support from both parties, did not address such issues.

Republicans said they remained a priority.

“The House bill includes several provisions to require accountability from this administration and to end the ‘woke’ policies being forced on service members by left-wing bureaucrats,” Rogers said. “… We will be fighting very hard to ensure their inclusion in the final bill happens.”

Representative Adam Smith, the top House Armed Services Democrat, called for compromise, saying, “Threatening the ability of DoD to function as we force our way to get what we want is a dangerous game to play.”

US Congress vows to pass massive defense bill, culture wars loom

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