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.

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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 TrumpAlaska Republican Party cancels 2020 primary Ukrainian official denies Trump pressured president Trump goes after New York Times, Washington Post: 'They have gone totally CRAZY!!!!' 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 JayapalProgressives push for changes to Pelosi drug pricing plan Pelosi woos progressives on prescription drug pricing plan Democrats ignore Asian American and Pacific Islander voters at their peril MORE (D-Wash.) said after the vote.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Pentagon waiting for Saudi assessment on attack | Defense bill talks begin | Border fight takes centerstage | Pentagon finalizes .5B in wall contracts | US withholds Afghan aid citing corruption House Armed Services panel gets classified briefing on Saudi attacks Negotiators kick off defense bill talks amid border wall, Iran debates 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-CortezOcasio-Cortez reveals new policies for campaign aides with children Kennedy launches primary challenge against Markey The Memo: 'Whistleblower' furor gains steam 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 BlumenauerCoalition of farmers and ranchers endorses Green New Deal Marijuana industry donations to lawmakers surge in 2019: analysis Overnight Energy: Democrats call for Ross to resign over report he threatened NOAA officials | Commerce denies report | Documents detail plan to decentralize BLM | Lawmakers demand answers on bee-killing pesticide MORE (Ore.), Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralHouse Democrats blur lines on support for impeachment Congressional Hispanic Caucus calls for answers on Mississippi ICE raids Congressional Hispanic Caucus members call for diversity within the Fed MORE (N.Y.), Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeMarijuana industry donations to lawmakers surge in 2019: analysis Lawmakers urge DNC to name Asian American debate moderator Overnight Health Care: Planned Parenthood to leave federal family planning program absent court action | Democrats demand Trump withdraw rule on transgender health | Cummings, Sanders investigate three drug companies for 'obstructing' probe MORE (Calif.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarGOP Senate candidate said Republicans have 'dual loyalties' to Israel Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to meet with lawmakers | Big tech defends efforts against online extremism | Trump attends secretive Silicon Valley fundraiser | Omar urges Twitter to take action against Trump tweet Omar asks Twitter what it's doing in response to Trump spreading 'lies that put my life at risk' MORE (Minn.), Mark PocanMark William PocanDemocrats press Nadler to hold Lewandowski in contempt Omar says US should reconsider aid to Israel Trump crosses new line with Omar, Tlaib, Israel move MORE (Wis.), Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyDemocrats blast HUD for removing LGBT language from grant competition Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to meet with lawmakers | Big tech defends efforts against online extremism | Trump attends secretive Silicon Valley fundraiser | Omar urges Twitter to take action against Trump tweet Omar asks Twitter what it's doing in response to Trump spreading 'lies that put my life at risk' MORE (Mass.) and Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibMarkey fundraises ahead of Kennedy primary challenge The Hill's Campaign Report: De Blasio drops out | Warren gains support from black voters | Sanders retools campaign team | Warning signs for Tillis in NC Omar says she hopes Netanyahu not reelected 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 ThornberryNegotiators kick off defense bill talks amid border wall, Iran debates Defense bill talks set to start amid wall fight House rejects GOP motion on replacing Pentagon funding used on border wall 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.