House approves defense bill after adding liberal sweeteners

The House in a 220-197 vote on Friday approved the annual defense policy bill, avoiding a potential major embarrassment for Democrats as they kept most of the caucus in line to pass the bill without Republican support.

Just eight Democrats voted against the bill on final passage. Friday’s passage comes after Democratic leaders’ ability to hold the line was called into question earlier in the week.

ADVERTISEMENT

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was the first bill the House debated since the bitter fight over a $4.6 billion border aid bill. Progressives wanted more stringent rules on care for migrants included in the bill, but Democratic leaders decided to bring up a Senate-passed bill without those rules after moderates threw their support behind the bill.

Heading into the NDAA debate, progressives warned they thought the bill’s $733 billion price tag was too high.

An amendment to trim $16.8 billion from the bill failed, 115-307.

But progressives also said they could support the NDAA despite the funding concern if their other amendments passed. They were particularly concerned about amendments related to President TrumpDonald John TrumpPompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report House unravels with rise of 'Les Enfants Terrible' Ben Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist MORE’s war powers.

Earlier Friday, the House passed an amendment to prevent Trump from launching a military strike on Iran without prior congressional approval.

Democrats also approved amendments to block emergency arms sales to Saudi Arabia, end U.S. military support to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and repeal the 2002 authorization for the use of military force that authorized the Iraq War, among others.

“I held my nose and voted yes,” Progressive Caucus co-chair Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalActivist: Exclusion of domestic workers from federal labor laws 'a legacy of slavery' How Trump suddenly brought Democrats together on a resolution condemning him House votes against striking Pelosi remarks from record MORE (D-Wash.) said after the vote.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Esper officially nominated for Defense secretary | Pentagon silent on Turkey getting Russian missile system | House, Senate headed for clash over defense bill House and Senate head for showdown on must-pass defense bill Overnight Defense: House approves 3 billion defense bill | Liberal sweeteners draw progressive votes | Bill includes measure blocking Trump from military action on Iran MORE (D-Wash.) “worked very hard to incorporate some progressive priorities,” she added. “And then I’m working with Chairman Smith on establishing different ways that we can actually start to make the case for lowering military defense spending.”

Outside of war powers, amendments touched on a number of progressive priorities, including reversing Trump’s transgender military ban, giving federal employees 12 weeks of paid family leave, prohibiting military parades for political purposes and banning Pentagon funds from being used at Trump-owned properties.

But several progressive amendments on immigration failed, including one from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOmar responds to 'send her back' chant with Maya Angelou quote Trump blasts minority Democrats, rally crowd chants 'send her back' Trump refers to Ocasio-Cortez as just 'Cortez' because it 'takes too much time' to say full name MORE (D-N.Y.) to block the any deployment of troops to the border to enforce immigration laws and to bar the use of funds to detain undocumented immigrants in Defense Department facilities.

Ocasio-Cortez voted against the final bill, as did Democratic Reps. Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerOvernight Defense: House approves 3 billion defense bill | Liberal sweeteners draw progressive votes | Bill includes measure blocking Trump from military action on Iran House approves defense bill after adding liberal sweeteners Overnight Energy: Critics worry Trump ignoring plight of honeybees | EPA employee protests union contract while receiving award from Wheeler | Green groups team up to host presidential climate summit MORE (Ore.), Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralOvernight Defense: House approves 3 billion defense bill | Liberal sweeteners draw progressive votes | Bill includes measure blocking Trump from military action on Iran House approves defense bill after adding liberal sweeteners Lawmakers congratulate US women's soccer team on winning opening World Cup match MORE (N.Y.), Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeDemocrats ask Labor Department to investigate Amazon warehouses Congress, stop ducking war-declaration authority on Iran Trump's tweets unify a fractured Democratic Party MORE (Calif.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarBen Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist Trump thanks 'vicious young Socialist Congresswomen' for his poll numbers House expected to vote Wednesday on Green's impeachment effort MORE (Minn.), Mark PocanMark William PocanOn the USMCA, Pelosi can't take yes for an answer Overnight Defense: House approves 3 billion defense bill | Liberal sweeteners draw progressive votes | Bill includes measure blocking Trump from military action on Iran House approves defense bill after adding liberal sweeteners MORE (Wis.), Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyBen Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist Trump thanks 'vicious young Socialist Congresswomen' for his poll numbers CNN's Cuomo spars with Kris Kobach over whether Trump's tweet was racist MORE (Mass.) and Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibBen Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist Trump thanks 'vicious young Socialist Congresswomen' for his poll numbers House expected to vote Wednesday on Green's impeachment effort MORE (Mich.).

Democrats needed to win support from every faction of their party to pass the bill after Republicans threatened to withhold their support over what they saw as an NDAA that doesn’t invest enough in the military.

No Republicans voted in support of the bill Friday. The White House threatened to veto the bill earlier this week.

Republicans argue the defense budget should be $750 billion, citing testimony from defense officials on the need for 3 to 5 percent year-over-year budget growth.

Republicans were also deeply opposed to several policy provisions, including ones related to the border, nuclear weapons and Guantanamo Bay.

“Unfortunately, this year in the House we spent a lot of time on messaging bills that are never going to be considered by the Senate, never will get to the president,” House Armed Services Committee ranking member Rep. Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryHouse and Senate head for showdown on must-pass defense bill House approves defense bill after adding liberal sweeteners Overnight Defense: Dems confident defense bill will pass despite party infighting | GOP chairman's bill would review US, Saudi ties | Senators briefed on sexual assault allegation against top general MORE (R-Texas) said on the House floor. “I don't want the NDAA to turn into a messaging bill where we can go home and brag about something we voted but those provisions have no chance of becoming law.” 

The House will now have to reconcile its version of the bill with the Senate’s. The Senate passed its version 86-8 last month without any of the progressive amendments that made it into the House version, potentially complicating negotiations on the final bill.

Updated 2:22 p.m.