House panel approves $733B defense policy bill

House panel approves $733B defense policy bill
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The House Armed Services Committee early Thursday advanced its $733 billion defense policy bill.

The committee voted 33-24 largely along party lines to send the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to the House floor.

Republican Reps. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikLawmakers pay tribute to Colin Powell Lawmakers laud diversity gains in Congress Majority of Americans express dissatisfaction with democracy, and gerrymanderers race to the bottom MORE (N.Y.) and Don Bacon (Neb.) voted with Democrats in support of the bill.

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While Democrats hold a majority in the House, a lack of Republican support could become an issue when the bill comes to the floor if progressive Democrats balk at its $733 billion price tag.

Republicans voted against the bill in committee after losing amendment votes on several of their priorities, including increasing the dollar value of the bill and nuclear issues.

Speaking to reporters after the vote, the top Republican on the committee, Rep. Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryUnnamed law enforcement banned under the new NDAA Lobbying world Senate poised to override Trump's defense bill veto MORE (Texas), cited the funding and nuclear issues, as well as provisions related to Guantanamo Bay, as negatives that outweighed positives in the bill.

Thornberry offered an amendment to increase the topline to $750 billion, but was voted down, 27-30. Rep. Elaine LuriaElaine Goodman LuriaFormer VA secretaries propose National Warrior Call Day to raise military suicide awareness Business groups create new headache for Pelosi Chamber of Commerce warns moderate Democrats against voting for reconciliation MORE (D-Va.) voted with Republicans.

Republicans argue a $750 billion defense budget — the amount requested by the Trump administration — is needed to counter Russia and China, citing testimony from defense officials on the need for a 3 to 5 percent year-over-year budget increase.

“Everything in here is core responsibility of this committee,” Thornberry said of his amendment. “For us to authorize an amount less than the administration requested, less than the consistent testimony we have received, less than the Senate Armed Services Committee puts us at a disadvantage” in upcoming budget negotiations.

Democrats, though, highlight that the Pentagon planned to request $733 billion until late last year after defense hawks and former Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate nears surprise deal on short-term debt ceiling hike Overnight Defense & National Security — Pentagon chiefs to Congress: Don't default Pentagon chiefs say debt default could risk national security MORE convinced President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump defends indicted GOP congressman House to vote Thursday on holding Bannon in contempt Youngkin calls for investigation into Loudoun County School Board amid sexual assault allegations MORE to go higher.

“It’s worth noting that $733 billion, by about $17 billion, is the largest defense budget ever,” committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithFacebook's the latest example that we must rewrite laws on corporate harm Overnight Defense & National Security — US attempts to mend ties with France Pentagon requires COVID-19 vaccines for civilian employees by Nov. 22 MORE (D-Wash.) said, adding that “$733 billion is not a small amount of money.”

Republicans are also deeply opposed to nuclear cuts in the bill. In particular, the bill would block the deployment of the new submarine-launched low-yield nuclear warhead.

Two amendments offered by Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyJan. 6 panel votes to hold Bannon in contempt The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Biden, Democrats dig into legislative specifics Trump sues Jan. 6 panel to block records MORE (R-Wyo.) to protect the low-yield warhead were voted down.

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The committee’s markup, which started Wednesday morning and lasted nearly 21 hours, also saw fierce debates about issues ranging from the Guantanamo Bay detention center to the potential for military conflict with Iran and Trump’s proposed border wall.

The committee also voted to add in a proposal to create a new branch of the military dedicated to space. 

The committee’s proposal is similar to Trump’s Space Force idea, but is a more slimmed-down Space Corps nearly identical to a 2017 House-passed plan.