The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday night voted 316-113 to pass the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal year 2022. File Photo by Sarah Silbiger/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 24 (UPI) -- The U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of sweeping legislation to appropriate funds for the military on Thursday following lengthy debate that started days earlier.
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022 passed 316-113 in a Thursday night vote with 38 Democrats and 75 Republicans against.
The bill was introduced in early July to authorized $768 billion in discretionary spending for national defense that sets the policy direction of the military.
Among directives in the massive bill is a pay increase of 2.7% for all men and women in uniform as well as drastic reforms to the Uniform Code of Military Justice to protect victims of sexual assault. It also creates the Office of Countering Extremism and gives the mayor of Washington, D.C., control of the D.C. National Guard.
It also includes healthcare and parental care services for servicemembers and creates a National Guard for the U.S. Space Force while authorizing nearly $1 billion in additional cybersecurity investments.
The bill has been passed annually for the past 60 years, with the Senate now needing to pass its version before it can reach the desk of President Joe Biden to be signed into law.
Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., who introduced the bill, called it "an excellent piece of legislation that makes transformational policy changes with direct benefits for our service members and their families."
"The NDAA also represents the legislative process at its best," he said in a statement following the vote. "This year, like every year, we worked for months to identify policies where we agree, and where we don't, and engaged in thorough, thoughtful debate on all of them."
The bill was introduced to the House floor late last week. Debates on hundreds of amendments began Tuesday.
Though passing on a mostly bipartisan basis, the bill was met with staunched opposition from the House Freedom Caucus, which urged Republicans to vote it down.
The conservative caucus said the bill was going to give an additional $25 billion in military funding to an administration "that refuses to take accountability" for the military withdrawal from Afghanistan that saw more than 124,000 people evacuated from the country as the Taliban took over in late August. Thirteen U.S. servicemembers were also killed in an attack near the airport during the mission and a U.S. drone strike that followed killed 10 Afghan civilians, including seven children.
The caucus also accused the bill of putting political ideology before military readiness.
"The problem is this bill is stuck full of woke political policies from the radical left that control Congress today," Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., said in a video posted to Twitter explaining why he was voting against the bill. "And we don't do anything to hold our leadership accountable for all the things that took place in Afghanistan."