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 StefanikWhere do we go from here? Conservation can show the way The Hill's Morning Report — Trump basks in acquittal; Dems eye recanvass in Iowa Trump holds White House 'celebration' for impeachment acquittal 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 ThornberryOvernight Defense: Lawmakers tear into Pentagon over .8B for border wall | Dems offer bill to reverse Trump on wall funding | Senators urge UN to restore Iran sanctions Democrats introduce bill to reverse Trump's shift of military money toward wall Bipartisan Armed Services leaders tear into Pentagon over use of .8B for border wall 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 LuriaM ad buy praises swing-district Democrats' environmental work Vulnerable Democrats fret over surging Sanders Mixed feelings on war power limits: Lawmakers and vet candidates 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.

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“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 MattisFed chief issues stark warning to Congress on deficits Why US democracy support matters Hillicon Valley: DOJ indicts four Chinese military officers over Equifax hack | Amazon seeks Trump deposition in 'war cloud' lawsuit | Inside Trump's budget | Republican proposes FTC overhaul MORE convinced President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump passes Pence a dangerous buck Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Trump taps Pence to lead coronavirus response | Trump accuses Pelosi of trying to create panic | CDC confirms case of 'unknown' origin | Schumer wants .5 billion in emergency funds Trump nods at reputation as germaphobe during coronavirus briefing: 'I try to bail out as much as possible' after sneezes 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 SmithOvernight Defense: Lawmakers tear into Pentagon over .8B for border wall | Dems offer bill to reverse Trump on wall funding | Senators urge UN to restore Iran sanctions Democrats introduce bill to reverse Trump's shift of military money toward wall Bipartisan Armed Services leaders tear into Pentagon over use of .8B for border wall 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 CheneyThis week: House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime Overnight Defense: GOP lawmaker takes unannounced trip to Syria | Taliban leader pens New York Times op-ed on peace talks | Cheney blasts paper for publishing op-ed Liz Cheney blasts NYT for publishing op-ed by Taliban leader MORE (R-Wyo.) to protect the low-yield warhead were voted down.

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.