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House passes $610B defense policy bill

House passes $610B defense policy bill
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The House on Wednesday voted 277-147 to pass a defense policy bill that authorizes $610 billion for Pentagon programs and spending. 

The bill would authorize $551 billion for the Pentagon's base budget and $59 billion for war funding, known as Overseas Contingency Operations. 

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The bill passed on a slightly bipartisan basis, with 237 Republicans and 40 Democrats voting in favor, and five Republicans and 142 Democrats voting against. The White House issued a veto threat on the bill on Monday over a number of provisions. 

Republicans plan to shift $18 billion from the war fund to pay for things in the Pentagon's base budget, which the White House objects to.  

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) defended the tactic upon the bill's passage.

"It does these things by beginning to correct shortfalls in our military readiness, reversing troop cuts, increasing investments in training and maintenance programs, and rebuilding crumbling facilities. It gives our troops the full pay raise to which they are entitled under the law and provides the next administration the ability to review operations and funding, make adjustments, and ask for more money if necessary," he said in a statement. 

"I am hopeful that as the bill moves forward, we can put excuses, politics, and election-year rhetoric aside and do right by our men and women in uniform."

Republicans argue the funds are needed to pay for retaining 27,000 active duty troops and about 25,000 reservists, to address a military readiness crisis and to pay for aircraft and ships requested by the services. 

The plan would leave the war funding account short $18 billion come April, but Republicans are betting that the next administration would request a war supplemental upon taking office to make up the difference. 

However, Democrats and the White House argue that it is a risky bet that could leave warfighters without proper funds. They also argue that it would force the military to retain troops strength and weapons that could not be trained or maintained, leading to a hollow force. 

The bill also contains a number of policy provisions. It would restrict transfers of Guantanamo Bay detainees to the U.S. and prevent the administration from conducting a new round of military base closures. The bill would also prevent the retirement of the A-10 Warthog attack aircraft. 

The legislation contains a 2.1 percent pay raise for troops, above a 1.6 percent raise proposed by the White House. 

There were a number of amendments to the bill adopted during debate on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

The House voted to shrink the size of the National Security Council to 100, unless the president submits the national security adviser for Senate confirmation. 

The House also adopted an amendment that would reverse a provision in the bill that narrowed the eligibility of special immigration visas for Afghan translators who assisted U.S. government workers during the 13-year war. 

The House voted down an amendment by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) to repeal the 2001 authorization for the use of military force, which Obama is using to justify fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, 90 days after the bill's passage. 

Lawmakers also voted down an amendment to reverse the plan to shift the $18 billion in war funds to the base budget. Another amendment that would have struck language from the bill expressing Congress's suggestion that the administration leave 9,800 troops in Afghanistan after 2017 was likewise rejected.