Senate approves sweeping defense bill

The Senate on Wednesday passed a sweeping defense policy bill on an 88-11 vote, ending a weeks-long standoff that had stalled work on the legislation. 

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which sets spending top lines and policy for the Pentagon, passed the House last week and now goes to President BidenJoe BidenNorth Korea conducts potential 6th missile test in a month Clyburn predicts Supreme Court contender J. Michelle Childs would get GOP votes Overnight Defense & National Security — US delivers written response to Russia MORE’s desk, where he’s expected to sign it. 

“For the past six years, Congress worked on a bipartisan basis to pass an annual defense authorization act without fail. ... With so many priorities to balance, I thank my colleagues for working hard over these last few months, both in committee and off the floor, to get NDAA done,” Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSchumer vows to vote on Biden Supreme Court pick with 'all deliberate speed' Voting rights failed in the Senate — where do we go from here? Forced deadline spurs drastic tactic in Congress MORE (D-N.Y.) said.

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The initial vote on the measure was 89-10, but in an unusual move Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerSenate Democrats urge Biden to get beefed-up child tax credit into spending deal Despite Senate setbacks, the fight for voting rights is far from over Small ranchers say Biden letting them get squeezed MORE (D-N.J.) came back to the Senate floor to ask to switch his vote from "yes" to "no." 

The $768.2 billion bill provides $740 billion for the Department of Defense. Both chambers agreed to add $25 billion more than what President Biden requested for fiscal 2022 for the defense budget.

It also includes $27.8 billion for defense-related activities in the Department of Energy and another $378 million for other defense-related activities.

The defense bill also includes a major overhaul of how the military prosecutes certain crimes, including military sexual assault. The bill strips commanders of most of their authority, but they would still be allowed to conduct trials, pick jury members, approve witnesses and grant immunity.

The changes were not enough for Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandDocumentary to be released on Gabby Giffords's recovery from shooting Tlaib blasts Biden judicial nominee whose firm sued environmental lawyer The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Connected Commerce Council - Biden faces reporters as his agenda teeters MORE (D-N.Y.), who had been pressing to completely remove commanders from the chain of command in these instances and let independent military prosecutors handle them.

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Gillibrand has called for a vote on her original proposal, arguing that the authority the commander still has under the NDAA does not bring about true independence.

As part of the final agreement, lawmakers dropped a provision from the bill that would have required women to register for the selective service. The provision had garnered pushback from some Republicans, who didn’t want to require women to register, while some progressives pushed for ending the draft altogether. 

The bill also does not include a deal to repeal the 1991 and 2002 Iraq War authorizations worked out by Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDemocrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Manchin, Sinema join GOP to sink filibuster change for voting bill Desperate Dems signal support for cutting Biden bill down in size MORE (D-Va.) and Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungBipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Democrats return with lengthy to-do list MORE (R-Ind.). A failure to reach a larger agreement on the amendments that would be considered to the legislation torpedoed the Iraq War provisions. The setback effectively punts the issue to 2022, even though the Kaine-Young deal had enough support to get past a filibuster. 

An effort to impose sanctions related to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline also didn’t get into the bill. Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzFlake meets with Erdoğan in first official duties as US ambassador Senate Republicans press federal authorities for information on Texas synagogue hostage-taker Biden trails generic Republican in new poll, would face tight race against Trump MORE (R-Texas) and Jim RischJames Elroy RischSenators huddle on Russia sanctions as tensions escalate Democrats face scaled-back agenda after setbacks Biden huddles with group of senators on Ukraine-Russia tensions MORE (R-Idaho) had been expected to get an amendment vote, despite opposition from the administration, but the amendment deal was blocked by Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioPut partisan politics aside — The Child Tax Credit must be renewed immediately These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Lawmakers press Biden admin to send more military aid to Ukraine MORE (R-Fla.), who wanted his own proposal in the legislation. 

The Senate previously passed bipartisan legislation from Rubio on banning imports from China’s Xinjiang region, where administration officials have accused the government of carrying out genocide against the predominately Muslim Uyghur ethnic minority. But Rubio wanted to get his bill into the defense legislation as an amendment or to force action in the House where it had languished for months. 

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Though Rubio didn’t work out a deal on his legislation in time for breaking the stalemate on the defense bill, he and Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) announced this week that they had cut an agreement. 

The NDAA also includes a provision that would prohibit the Pentagon from using funds for certain procurements from China’s Xinjiang region, where Beijing has come under fire for human rights abuses against the Uyghur population.

“The United States is so reliant on China that we have turned a blind eye to the slave labor that makes our clothes, our solar panels, and much more,” Rubio said. "It is time to end our economic addiction to China.”

Updated at 1:55 p.m.