U.S. Senate ‘Overwhelmingly’ Passes ‘Record-setting’ Defense Spending Bill

On Wednesday the Senate voted 87-10 to pass authorization for the Pentagon defense spending bill , The John S McCain National Defense Authorization Act, named in honor of Senator John McCain this year.

Fiscal year 2019’s NDAA passed the Senate “barely a week after the House passed the same measure,” where it passed there 359-54, and will now head to President Trump who is expected to sign it, the Washington Post  reports, just in time for both chambers to take their August recess.

“The Senate voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to pass a $716 billion defense authorization bill, sending the record-setting measure to President Trump while avoiding confrontational policy changes that would have angered him.”

In a move to pacify the White House the Senate came to an agreement to remove an earlier provision “that would have undone a deal the Trump administration struck with Chinese telecom giant ZTE to ease penalties that were imposed on the firm for doing business with Iran and North Korea.”

A list of the votes can be found on the Senate government website here.

Senator Marco Rubio was among the nay votes.

“We have yet to realize what a significant threat China poses to this country,” Rubio said. “Until we do, we are going to continue to be in danger of surrendering and forfeiting our way of life . . . and we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves.”

They preserved other measures such as barring the government from using ZTE products and those produced by another Chinese telecom company, Huawei.

According to the Washington Post, another measure they preserved was changes made to the authority given to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, otherwise known as CFIUS, they say will be “critical for blocking deals with companies that pose national security risks to the country” as well as preserving a “reaffirmation of the United States’ commitment to NATO and establishes a new position on the National Security Council dedicated to countering Russian election interference.”

Thanks to the recently passed $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill signed into law in March congress gave themselves, and the White House, a two year moratorium on spending caps they set in 2011 giving fiscal year 2019’s NDAA 1,254 page bill the ability to go big.

NDAA 2019 military funding is coming on the heels of the more than $650 billion allocated for military spending from that March omnibus bill which was eventually signed by Trump after he threatened “to veto the spending plan because it didn’t address immigration issues and included insufficient funding for a border wall,” claiming he reluctantly signed it “because of the incredible gains that we’ve been able to make for the military…” according to Stars and Stripes .

However, even as the bill is on track to be signed on-time by October 1st, something that hasn’t happened in 22 years, there is still one major obstacle they have to pass: funding for the measure. “It remains to be seen when lawmakers will move on companion legislation that actually funds the plan,” Military.com points out.

“When we pass the fiscal year 2019 Defense Appropriations Act, which funds these programs, we’ll have gone yet further in meeting our commitments to the all-volunteer force,” McConnell said. “This NDAA has global and nationwide significance. …I know just how significant an impact this legislation will have on some of our nation’s finest.”

The Senate kept Trump’s request to increase active-duty troops to 15,000 matching what the House approved last week. It also gave authorization for a Space Force. (military.com)

“the proposed NDAA also dictates the next steps in creating a Space Force, but stopped short of Trump’s calls for a new military branch. And the bill authorizes a military parade in that was triggered by Trump’s interests for an elaborate celebration in Washington, D.C. in November.”

The National Defense Authorization Act, which sets defense policy and spending priorities, this year includes “accelerating missile defense, ship and submarine building and military research and development”USNI News reports.

The Senate bill authorizes $23.1 billion for shipbuilding, including fully-funding the purchase of 10 battle-force ships and authorized work developing the Columbia-class of nuclear ballistic missile submarine (SSBN-826). Funding for the Littoral Combat Ship is limited to one hull by the Senate bill until the Pentagon provides more information related to the transition to future guided-missile frigate (FFG(X)).

The bill also authorizes increasing military personnel totals, including setting a new Navy end strength level of 331,900 active duty personnel. Currently, the Navy reports having 325, 673 active duty personnel, including 4, 398 Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy.

In terms of policy, the Senate bill authorizes the Navy’s adoption several readiness provisions included in the Surface Warfare Enhancement Act of 2018, which was passed in the wake of last year’s deadly collisions between USS John S. McCain (DDG-56), USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) a pair of commercial ships.

Why this matters

It will be interesting to see how the second part of this plays out and just where they end up getting funds and or from who, and whether Trump ends up dragging this NDAA out until December like he did last year using our military as his pawn.

As pointed out at the end, they do fund the military, all the branches in fact, including pay raises and addressing issues over benefits, but this 1,254 page monstrosity – that is enough to make eyes bleed and heads explode reading it – is something which has become for almost every congress for 50 years now a way to turn funding our military into one more instrument they fecklessly use as their yearly vehicle to cram as much nonsense in as they can image, and their imaginations are large, while almost guaranteeing none of them have read it while who knows who wrote what – are writing checks they can’t cash.

If this was just about funding and setting policy for our military that would be one thing, but this congress, like the last congress, and the one before that, ad nausea, are using this to do more than that. They just unconscionably grew themselves bigger under the guise of ‘funding our military.’ But Trump is going to get a parade so we’ve got that going for us.

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