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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 TrumpEx-DOJ official Rosenstein says he was not aware of subpoena targeting Democrats: report Ex-Biden adviser says Birx told him she hoped election turned out 'a certain way' Cheney rips Arizona election audit: 'It is an effort to subvert democracy' 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 JayapalNew Alzheimer's drug sparks backlash over FDA, pricing Hillicon Valley: House targets tech giants with antitrust bills | Oversight chair presses JBS over payment to hackers | Trump spokesman to join tech company | YouTube suspends GOP senator Simmering Democratic tensions show signs of boiling over MORE (D-Wash.) said after the vote.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithCongress must stop the march toward war with China Pelosi floats Democrat-led investigation of Jan. 6 as commission alternative Democrats plot next move after GOP sinks Jan. 6 probe 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-CortezHarris attends DC Pride rally Simmering Democratic tensions show signs of boiling over Out-of-touch Democrats running scared of progressives 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 BlumenauerBipartisan bill proposes to add billion in restaurant relief funds White House pressed on evacuating Afghan allies as time runs out Rivers, hydropower and climate resilience MORE (Ore.), Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralThe Memo: Harris, Ocasio-Cortez and the Democratic divide on immigration House Democrats introduce bill to close existing gun loopholes and prevent mass shootings Hispanic Caucus energized by first Biden meeting MORE (N.Y.), Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeHundreds gather at historic Tulsa church to dedicate prayer wall on anniversary of massacre Overnight Defense: Pentagon pitches 5B budget | Kamala Harris addresses US Naval Academy graduates Pentagon pitches 5B budget with cuts to older weapons MORE (Calif.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarSimmering Democratic tensions show signs of boiling over Pelosi signals no further action against Omar The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Bipartisan group reaches infrastructure deal; many questions remain MORE (Minn.), Mark PocanMark William PocanThe Memo: The pre-Trump 'normal' is gone for good Overnight Defense: Pentagon pitches 5B budget | Kamala Harris addresses US Naval Academy graduates Pentagon pitches 5B budget with cuts to older weapons MORE (Wis.), Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyProgressives rally behind Omar while accusing her critics of bias House candidate in Chicago says gun violence prompted her to run Labor secretary faces questions from Democrats in police chief controversy MORE (Mass.) and Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibProgressives rally behind Omar while accusing her critics of bias Omar: I wasn't equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries Omar feuds with Jewish Democrats 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 ThornberryUnnamed law enforcement banned under the new NDAA Lobbying world Senate poised to override Trump's defense bill veto 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.