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 StefanikRepublican lawmakers ask Trump not to delay Pentagon cloud-computing contract Rising number of GOP lawmakers criticize Trump remarks about minority Dems Overnight Defense: Woman accusing general of sexual assault willing to testify | Joint Chiefs pick warns against early Afghan withdrawal | Tensions rise after Iran tries to block British tanker MORE (N.Y.) and Don Bacon (Neb.) voted with Democrats in support of the bill.

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 ThornberryPentagon chief denies White House hand in 'war cloud' contract probe U.S. and U.K. divide increases on Iran Republican lawmakers issue dueling letters over Pentagon 'war cloud' contract 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 LuriaAnti-Trump vets join Steyer group in pressing Democrats to impeach Trump The House Democrats who voted to kill impeachment effort Bipartisan group of lawmakers invites colleagues to tour DC's Holocaust museum 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 MattisOnly Donald Trump has a policy for Afghanistan New Pentagon report blames Trump troop withdrawal for ISIS surge in Iraq and Syria Mattis returns to board of General Dynamics MORE convinced President TrumpDonald John TrumpFacebook releases audit on conservative bias claims Harry Reid: 'Decriminalizing border crossings is not something that should be at the top of the list' Recessions happen when presidents overlook key problems 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 SmithWarren's pledge to avoid first nuclear strike sparks intense pushback Landmark US-Russia arms control treaty poised for final blow Young Democrats look to replicate Ocasio-Cortez's primary path 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 CheneyDick Cheney to attend fundraiser supporting Trump reelection: report Steve King says 'left-wing media' and GOP leadership owe him apology after rape, incest comments GOP memo deflects some gun questions to 'violence from the left' 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.