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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 TrumpHouse passes voting rights and elections reform bill DEA places agent seen outside Capitol during riot on leave Georgia Gov. Kemp says he'd 'absolutely' back Trump as 2024 nominee 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 JayapalDemocrats snipe on policy, GOP brawls over Trump House Democrats' ambitious agenda set to run into Senate blockade Progressives push White House to overturn wage ruling MORE (D-Wash.) said after the vote.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithHigh alert as new QAnon date approaches Thursday Overnight Defense: Tim Kaine moves to claw back war powers authority | Study on sexual harassment and assault in the military Commissioners tasked with scrubbing Confederate base names sworn-in at first meeting 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-CortezBipartisan bill would ban lawmakers from buying, selling stocks The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - J&J vax rollout today; third woman accuses Cuomo 'Lucky': Inside Ocasio-Cortez's endorsement of Sanders 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 BlumenauerMomentum is growing towards investing in America's crumbling infrastructure Five things Biden should do to tackle the climate emergency Bipartisan bill to provide 0B in coronavirus relief for restaurants reintroduced MORE (Ore.), Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralLawmakers remember actress Cicely Tyson Over 40 lawmakers sign letter urging Merrick Garland to prioritize abolishing death penalty The Hill's Morning Report - Biden asks Congress to expand largest relief response in U.S. history MORE (N.Y.), Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeePro-Choice Caucus asks Biden to remove abortion fund restrictions from 2022 budget Progressives push White House to overturn wage ruling Lawmakers, Martin Luther King III discuss federal responses to systematic racism MORE (Calif.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarHouse approves George Floyd Justice in Policing Act House Democrats' ambitious agenda set to run into Senate blockade Omar introduces bill to sanction Saudi crown prince over Khashoggi killing MORE (Minn.), Mark PocanMark William PocanDemocrats cut deals to bolster support for relief bill Progressives grumble but won't sink relief bill over fewer stimulus checks Democrats don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' MORE (Wis.), Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyPressley says image of Black custodial staff cleaning up Capitol after Jan. 6 riot 'haunts' her DeJoy apologizes for mail delays while defending Postal Service changes DeJoy set for grilling by House Oversight panel MORE (Mass.) and Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibProgressives push White House to overturn wage ruling Six ways to visualize a divided America Jamaal Bowman's mother dies of COVID-19: 'I share her legacy with all of you' 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.