Defense

Senate panel proposes $696B Pentagon spending bill

The GOP-led Senate Appropriations Committee is proposing a $696 billion Pentagon spending bill for this fiscal year.

The Senate's version of the fiscal 2021 Pentagon spending bill was released Tuesday alongside all 11 other annual appropriations bills as lawmakers gear up to negotiate an end-of-year spending package to fund the government.

The government has been operating under a stopgap spending measure known as a continuing resolution since the start of the fiscal year in October.

That measure expires Dec. 11. Both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have said they want to pass an omnibus spending bill, rather than another short-term resolution, but the two chambers still have to work out key differences on controversial issues.

The House passed its $694.6 billion version of the Pentagon spending bill in July as part of a package of spending bills.

The Senate version released Tuesday includes $627.2 billion for the base defense budget and $68.7 billion for a war fund known as the Overseas Contingency Operations account.

The bill aligns with the House's on a 3 percent pay raise for troops.

The Senate's version also eschews key controversial policy issues that the Democratic-led House tackled.

The House's included funding for the Army to change the names of bases named after Confederate leaders, as well as several provisions aimed at blocking Pentagon funding from being used on President Trump's border wall.

The lower chamber approved of funding for the Army to remove Confederate names from bases after the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by Minneapolis police in May. His death sparked nationwide protests over racial injustice and police brutality, prompting the removal of Confederate monuments all over the country. 

The Senate's bill would also fund 96 F-35 fighter jets, 17 more than the administration requested and five more than the House bill would buy.

The bill also includes $21.35 billion to build nine new battle force ships, $1.4 billion more than the Trump administration requested. The shipbuilding money would buy one Columbia-class submarine, one Virginia-class submarine, two Arleigh Burke destroyers, one Constellation-class frigate, one amphibious transport dock, one Expeditionary Fast Transport ships and two tug boats.

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