Senate sends $738B defense bill to Trump's desk

The Senate passed a mammoth defense bill on Tuesday, sending it to President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says his advice to impeachment defense team is 'just be honest' Trump expands tariffs on steel and aluminum imports CNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group MORE’s desk for his signature. 

Senators voted 86-8 to approve the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The legislation cleared the House last week. 

The $738 billion bill — which authorizes spending and lays out policy guidelines for the Pentagon — includes a high-profile deal that grants federal employees 12 weeks of paid parental leave in exchange for creating Trump’s "Space Force."

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group Democrats feel political momentum swinging to them on impeachment Impeachment throws curveball in Iowa to sidelined senators MORE (R-Ky.) touted the measure ahead of the vote on Tuesday, noting it was the 59th year in a row that Congress has passed the defense bill. 

“We’ll finally put this vital legislation on the president’s desk. I look forward to voting to pass the NDAA today by another overwhelming bipartisan vote for our service members and the critical missions they carry out,” McConnell said. 

Creation of a Space Force was a top goal for the White House and Republicans. Under the final agreement, it would be housed under the Department of the Air Force and would be led by a chief of space operations who would become a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff but report to the secretary of the Air Force. 

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeBroad, bipartisan rebuke for proposal to pull troops from Africa Lawmakers push back at Pentagon's possible Africa drawdown Senators take oath for impeachment trial MORE (R-Okla.) called it “the president’s big deal,” though he noted that he had “some reluctance at first” in supporting it. 

“It will help protect space and ensure America’s dominance in this warfighting domain for years to come,” Inhofe said. “China and Russia have their own space dominance ... and just the fact that we don’t have one is something that made people believe we didn’t have an interest in the Space Force.” 

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But the trade off for paid parental leave — and the large tab — earned the defense policy bill backlash from fiscal conservatives in the Senate. 

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulLindsey Graham will oppose subpoena of Hunter Biden Marsha Blackburn shares what book she's reading during Trump Senate trial Sekulow indicates Trump should not attend impeachment trial MORE (R-Ky.) argued that the bill included “bad compromises” that had “nothing to do with the national defense.” 

“The dirty little secret in Washington is that there’s actually too much compromise,” Paul said. “We’re going to have paid leave for everybody, but we’re going to borrow the money from China.” 

Sen. Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Cheney's decision not to run for Senate sparks Speaker chatter Juan Williams: Counting the votes to remove Trump MORE (R-Wyo.) also raised a point of order against the defense bill, arguing that it violated budget rules. Senators rejected his motion on Tuesday, and moved the bill toward a final vote. 

“Unfortunately CBO tell us that this bill will significantly add to our debt in the near and long term,” Enzi, who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, said on Tuesday, referring to the Congressional Budget Office. 

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Despite opposition from a handful of senators and kvetches with some provisions within the bill, the NDAA was widely expected to pass. It overcame a procedural hurdle on Monday night in a 76-6 vote. 

Trump has pledged that he will sign the legislation “immediately” once it reaches his desk. 

“Wow! All of our priorities have made it into the final NDAA: Pay Raise for our Troops, Rebuilding our Military, Paid Parental Leave, Border Security, and Space Force! Congress – don’t delay this anymore!” he tweeted last week. 

The bill was caught for months in negotiations between House and Senate lawmakers, raising the prospect that Congress might not be able to pass the defense legislation for the first time in nearly 60 years. Inhofe, as a backup, had introduced a “skinny” NDAA, though it likely would not have been able to pass the House. 

The major sticking point was provisions related to Trump’s border wall. Ultimately, negotiators decided to leave out wall-related provisions, kicking the issue to the separate appropriations process.

Sen. Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedOvernight Defense: Veterans group seeks Trump apology for comments on brain injuries | Pentagon says dozens of troops suffered traumatic injuries after attack | Trump unveils Space Force logo Dozens of US troops suffered traumatic brain injuries after Iran missile strikes Six mayors making a difference MORE (R.I.), the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, noted that there were “many difficult issues” to be worked out, but touted the legislation as a good deal. 

“It is the art of compromise,” he added.