House subcommittee advances $706B Pentagon spending bill

House subcommittee advances $706B Pentagon spending bill
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A House Appropriations Committee subpanel has advanced a $706 billion Pentagon spending bill.

The Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense approved the fiscal 2022 spending bill by voice vote in a closed-door session Wednesday, sending it to the full committee for consideration next month.

When combined with a separate military construction spending bill, the committee’s bill closely follows President BidenJoe BidenOvernight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Democrats hope Biden can flip Manchin and Sinema On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Democrats advance tax plan through hurdles MORE’s request for a $715 billion Defense Department budget next year.

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Biden’s request was panned by Republicans and progressive Democrats for opposite reasons. Republicans held the request was too small amid growing threats from China, while progressives argued it is too large in the face of pressing domestic needs and nonmilitary threats such as pandemics.

But other Democratic leaders are backing Biden’s dollar figure.

“In my opinion, we have landed on a responsible number that maintains a strong security posture today — while making important investments that will make us even stronger in the years to come,” House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee Chair Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) said at Wednesday’s markup, according to a copy of her remarks released by the panel.

The bill also includes several policy riders that could entice liberals into supporting it.

Among them, it seeks to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility by prohibiting funds from being used to operate the infamous prison after Sept. 30, 2022.

The legislation would also block funds from being used to support or facilitate offensive military operations conducted by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition against the Houthis in the war in Yemen.

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And it would require for-profit contractors to pay their workers a minimum wage of $15 per hour.

While the House Appropriations Committee is following Biden’s top-line request, it has tweaked some of the details.

The committee’s bill would fund eight new Navy ships — the same total number requested by the administration — but it would fund two Aegis guided missile destroyers instead of one and one towing, salvage and rescue ship instead of two.

The bill would also add $1.7 billion to Biden’s request for procurement — for a total of $134.3 billion — but cut $1.6 billion from his request for research and development — for a total of $110.4 billion.

The bill matches Biden’s request for 85 F-35 fighter jets, the first time in years appropriators are not proposing to buy more F-35s than requested. But the bill would also fund 12 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft at $977 million when the administration asked for none.

The measure would scrap funding for the the Navy’s proposed new nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile, but it follows the administration’s request for other nuclear programs that are often targeted by Democrats: $2.5 billion for the intercontinental ballistic missile replace program called the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent and $581 million for the nuclear-armed air-launched cruise missile called the Long Range Standoff Weapon.

The bill would fund a 2.7 percent pay raise for troops, in line with Biden’s request and the federal formula for setting a minimum annual pay raise for the military.

It also matches Biden’s request for an end-strength of 1,346,400 active-duty troops, a decrease of 1,975 troops from this year.

The legislation would also provide $25 million for the Defense Department to transport Afghans who helped U.S. troops during the 20-year war to a safe location, an issue that has become a prime focus of lawmakers in both parties amid the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Biden administration has said it will evacuate some Afghans who help U.S. troops, but has not provided a detailed plan, including cost and whether military or contractor aircraft will be used.

The bill also includes 16 earmarks worth a combined $28.5 million, according to a table released by the committee Wednesday.