House Lawmakers Sound Off After Passing $886 Billion Defense Bill

House Lawmakers Sound Off After Passing $886 Billion Defense Bill


Members of the House of Representatives weighed in after passing their annual defense policy bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Members of the House of Representatives weighed in on Thursday after passing their annual defense policy bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

This year’s NDAA is set to cost $886.3 billion and passed in the House by a vote of 310–118, with both bipartisan support and bipartisan opposition.

The NDAA provides for a wide range of military projects, including funding to build new warships, military aircraft, missile defense systems, and other new weapons systems. Other provisions provide for continued U.S. support for allies and partners and bolster strategic objectives like countering Russia in Europe and China in the Indo-Pacific region. The bill also authorizes a 5.2 percent pay raise for military personnel.

In total, this year’s NDAA enjoyed more support from the minority party in the House, with 147 Republicans joining 163 Democrats voting in favor of the bill. About one-third of the House Republican conference voted against the bill, along with 45 Democrats.

Several House Republicans had expressed disappointment last after learning that House Republican negotiators had dropped several conservative provisions when working to reconcile an earlier version of the House NDAA with a version passed in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Among the conservative policy riders cut from the annual defense policy bill were provisions to bar the Department of Defense from funding gender transition treatments and covering the cost of abortion-related travel and leave time for service members.

FISA Reform

Numerous conservative Republicans had also sought to reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which includes measures that allow the federal government to collect the private communications of U.S. citizens without a warrant under certain circumstances. The final version of the NDAA instead provided what is in effect a 16-month extension on FISA’s existing authorization.

After the vote on Thursday, Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) told NTD News that the clean extension of FISA authorization was among the reasons he voted against the NDAA on Thursday, but he expressed hope House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) will enable further negotiations on the matter.

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“FISA, we know, has been spying on the American people … so I opposed it,” Mr. Donalds said. “But you know, I think for the speaker, next year, we’re going to have an opportunity to, you know, restart a lot of these negotiations and build from there. What’s going to be critical is stopping the FBI and other elements of our government from misusing and abusing this process that’s supposed to protect this country.”

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) was among those who defended the FISA extension in the NDAA.

Mr. Smith, who is the ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, said there’s “no question” that some segments of FISA should be reformed, but said failing to extend other provisions now poses a “huge national security threat to this country.” Mr. Smith said the FISA extension provided in the NDAA “gives us time to do the reforms that need to be done without jeopardizing national security.”

Studying Potential China War Costs

Among the numerous provisions of this year’s NDAA are efforts to study the various costs that could be expected from a potential war between the United States and China. Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.), who voted for the NDAA, called these provisions a necessary measure to prepare the United States “for all contingencies.”

“China is exhibiting an aggressiveness under [Chinese leader Xi Jinping] that we haven’t seen before. And that’s why deterrence is so important. The reason why we need a strong NDAA, the reason why we need the Pacific deterrence initiative, the reason why we need to step up our partnerships with the Philippines in the South China Sea, and the reason why we need to advance all of the defensive weapons to Taiwan is to restore deterrence,” Mr. Barr told NTD News.

Mr. Barr, who is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Select Committee on the Strategic Competition with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), said President Joe Biden’s administration has maintained a “zombie diplomacy” as it relates to China and is continuing to invite Chinese aggression.

When asked for his thoughts on the provisions to study the costs of a possible war with China, Rep. Greg Meeks (D-N.Y.) told NTD News that the focus of U.S.-China relations should be one of competition, while crediting the Biden administration with organizing partners throughout the Indo-Pacific region to counter China in a potential conflict.

“Under the Biden administration, for the first time, for example, you have Japan and Korea talking and working with one another, we have the [Quadrilateral Security Dialogue] and working collectively together, we have Malaysia, Singapore,” said Mr. Meeks, the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “So all of our Indo-Pacific countries are now working collectively to make sure that we keep China at bay, and we are prepared if China steps over that line and, say, try to attack Taiwan. So we’re doing the right things to put the preventive measures in place.”

Rep. Cory Mills (R-Fla.), who voted against the NDAA, said it is still necessary to “acknowledge that there has been a growing geopolitical threat” from China as well as other nations like Russia, Iran, and North Korea.

“When the foreign and domestic policy is as intrinsically linked as it is today, we have to take all appropriate steps to make sure that we’re guarding and safeguarding U.S. national interests,” Mr. Mills told NTD News on Thursday.

Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.), who also voted against the NDAA, was more skeptical of the provisions to study the potential costs of a war with China, casting it as an unnecessary component in “this monstrosity of over $800 billion.” Mr. Burchett said he suspected the real intent of the provision is to help weapons manufacturers “sell more defense systems” and to benefit lawmakers from both parties who have stock in those companies.

Despite his misgivings about the provision, Mr. Burchett said China does indeed pose a significant threat to the United States.

“We know [China is] gearing up and the reason they’re gearing up is because we’re so dadgum weak, we’re throwing $114 billion unchecked dollars to Ukraine,” he said, referring to the U.S. spending so far to support Ukraine in its ongoing war with Russia.

Another Spending Battle Ahead

The Thursday House vote on the NDAA comes as lawmakers are handling other contentious deliberations over military spending and national security.

Congress is considering a $111 billion spending supplemental that ties tens of billions of dollars worth of new U.S. support for Ukraine to other items like security assistance to Israel and funding to hire new immigration and border personnel.

Republicans considering the $111 billion spending package have insisted the new immigration and border spending doesn’t do enough to address concerns they’ve raised about border security throughout the course of the Biden administration, and have instead insisted on policy reforms that limit asylum applications and temporary U.S. entry for border crossers.

Senate Democrats attempted to advance the supplemental spending bill last week, but failed to get the necessary votes as Republicans continued to raise their border policy demands.

Democrats have balked at the Republicans for tying their border security demands to a bill to provide more funding for Ukraine, and have said such negotiating tactics risk undermining Ukraine in its fight against Russia.

Mr. Meeks referred to Republicans opposed to additional spending for Ukraine as the “Russia caucus” and the “Vladimir Putin caucus” and said this wing of the Republican Party “apparently wants [Russian President Vladimir Putin] to win.” He said he hopes the House speaker will circumvent these border policy demands and instead just gather the House Republicans who favor aid to Ukraine and vote with Democrats to approve such aid without any further border conditions.

Rep. Maria Salazar (R-Fla.) defended Republicans pressing for concessions on border security.

“The problem is that the Dems don’t want to give,” she told NTD News. “It’s one versus the other. Why don’t we do everything? Ukraine, Taiwan, Israel, border, everything can be done. It’s just political willingness and people understanding on both parties that that’s the best for this country.”

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