WASHINGTON - The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday paving the way for the defense budget to exceed $800 billion next year, authorizing $37 billion in spending on top of the record $773 billion proposed by President Joe Biden.
The House passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, which sets policy for the Pentagon, by a vote of 329-101. The Senate has yet to pass its version, but the Senate Armed Services Committee has already backed an even larger increase, $45 billion, over Biden's proposal.
The two chambers will decide the ultimate level when they meet in conference at a future date. Their compromise bill would come up for a vote in both chambers later in the year.
The NDAA, one of the only major pieces of legislation Congress passes annually, is closely watched by a broad swath of industry and other interests because it determines everything from purchases of ships and aircraft to pay increases for soldiers and how to address geopolitical threats.
For example, this year's House bill rebuked Biden's policy on Turkey. Lawmakers approved an amendment that would restrict Biden's ability to sell F-16 fighter jets to the NATO ally.
Lawmakers also approved provisions to repeal the 2002 Iraq War authorization and raise the troops' pay by 4.6%. It would also put into law Biden's executive order raising the minimum wage for federal contractors to $15 per hour.
The bill faced opposition from lawmakers who objected to increasing Pentagon spending.
"On the whole, the National Defense Authorization Act exemplifies the basic fact that we spend far too much on military-first solutions and far too little on diplomacy and on human needs at home and around the globe," said Democratic Representative Andy Levin, a leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, who voted no.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Leslie Adler)