WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved its version of the $717 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2019 on Thursday, with a bipartisan 351 to 66 vote that included 131 Democrats. The significant increase in the NDAA budget garnered the support of both parties, which cited concerns about the readiness of the U.S. military. Democratic amendments aimed at limiting spending on nuclear weapons and slashing the National Nuclear Security Administration’s weapons account were defeated.
According to Military Times, the House’s version of the bill “includes plans to boost active-duty military end strength, a 2.6 percent pay raise for troops, and sizeable boosts for military aviation upgrades and equipment maintenance, all in line with White House plans to boost American defense power.”
The budget will allow defense officials “to spend more than $39 billion on military aviation upgrades,” and includes $44 billion to replace Army equipment and parts, as well as general equipment maintenance. The measure also includes plans for 77 new F-35 fighter jets, two submarines, and modernization plans for nearly 3,400 tactical vehicles.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) says the bill “takes the next steps to rebuilding our military and reforming the Pentagon, the next steps towards strengthening our country’s national security.”
Democrats attempted to include gun control legislation in the bill that would have expanded background checks, while Republicans sought to include an amendment requiring the military buy only American-made dinner and flatware. Both amendments were defeated during the three day process but more than 500 others were added.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), one of only 59 House Democrats to vote against the bill, said:
Instead of a blueprint for peace and security, this NDAA continues the practice of endless war with no input or oversight from our congressional leaders.”
Earlier this week the White House signaled that Trump would sign the bill.
The Senate version of the NDAA spending bill was passed Thursday by a U.S. Senate committee in a closed session. It includes a measure barring Turkey from purchasing F-35 fighter jets.
Last December, Turkey agreed to purchase the S-400 surface-to-air missile system from Russia, to protect itself from Kurdish and Islamist militant threats at home as well as from its neighbors Syria and Iraq. The system, which is incompatible with NATO defense systems, is expected to arrive in 2019, according to Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli.
According to Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen, one of the authors of the measure, “the intention to purchase the Russian system is sanctionable under U.S. law.”
Russia-Turkey relations had been strained since 2015, when Turkey shot down a Russian war plane; but ties have since been restored, thanks to the conflict in Syria. U.S.-Turkey relations, however, have become increasingly tumultuous when it comes to Syria and U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Turkey has plans to purchase more than 100 F-35 fighter jets. Reuters reports Turkey would “retaliate if the United States enacted a law halting weapons sales to the country”
While the Senate version passed in a closed-door committee on Thursday, it still must pass the full Senate before the two versions are reconciled, and will soon go before the entire Senate. The reconciliation process between the House and the Senate will take place throughout the summer and a vote on the final compromise bill will take place later this year.
Top Photo | A Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter taxis at Edwards Air Force base (AP/Lockheed Martin)
Emma Fiala is MPN’s Editorial Assistant and social media guru. She is also a documentary photographer, mom of two, and an independent journalist. Her stories have been featured on MintPress News, the Anti-Media, Media Roots, and Steemit. Find her on Twitter.