Senate OKs defense bill, 68-29

The Senate on Thursday sent the massive 2010 Pentagon policy bill to the president's desk for signing. The Senate approved the bill authorizing $680 billion in defense spending by a vote of 68-29.

For the first time in a decade-long effort, the bill will include a provision that expands the federal hate-crimes law to cover offenses based on sexual orientation. The provision received a boost from the Democratic majority in Congress and has President Barack Obama’s backing. Democrats view the successful passage of hate-crimes legislation as a tribute to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), the champion of expanding the law.

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The 2010 defense authorization bill also continues to fund an alternate engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The Obama administration initially threatened to veto the bill if authorized funds for a second engine would seriously disrupt the overall F-35 program.

But Obama is not expected to veto the defense authorization bill. He won a big victory on it: The Senate voted to stop production of the F-22 fighter jet at 187 planes. The Senate vote had ripple effects through conference with the House authorizers and prompted defense appropriators to also scrap any plans for funding additional planes.

While Obama is not likely to veto the policy bill, he has yet to take a definitive stance over the 2010 defense appropriations bill. Senate and House appropriators are still negotiating the conference report and several lawmakers, including Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee chairman, have indicated that funding for an alternate engine is likely to be in the bill.

The $680 billion defense policy bill also authorizes $130 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq for fiscal year 2010, which started Oct. 1. 

This story was updated at 5:20 p.m.