House lawmakers on Tuesday voted to approve a $770 billion Pentagon spending bill including changes to how the military prosecutes sexual assault cases and orders a review of the Afghanistan war. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 7 (UPI) -- The House on Tuesday passed the National Defense Authorization Act, moving the must-pass measure one step closer to becoming law.
The bill, which authorizes nearly $770 billion in funding for the Department of Defense passed by a vote of 363-70 with 169 Democrats and 194 Republicans voting in favor of the measure while 51 Democrats and 19 Republicans were opposed.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., withheld her vote.
The version of the bill passed by the House includes changes to how sexual assault and harassment are handled within the military, directs an independent review of the Afghanistan war and authorizes a 2.7% pay increase for military service members and Pentagon civilian employees.
In regards to foreign policy, the measure includes a "statement of policy on Taiwan," directs President Joe Biden to develop a classified "Grand Strategy with Respect to China" and authorizes the president to appoint a senior official to lead a "whole-of-government" effort to address "anomalous health incident" commonly referred to as "Havana Syndrome."
The annual spending bill, usually seen as a bipartisan effort, was crafted behind closed doors by the heads of the House and Senate armed services committees.
It faced opposition from House Democrats who said it lacked key provisions to alter the military's culture to provide more equity for women and people of color.
"It is an unconscionable failure to deliver a National Defense Authorization Act that does not meet the values of equity and justice for which we have long strived or a bill that does not meaningfully protect the foundations of our democracy," Rep. Anthony G. Brown, D-Md., wrote in a letter urging fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus to oppose the bill.
The bill now moves to the Senate where it is expected to pass after Republicans on the chamber last week blocked the measure demanding more time to debate amendments, before heading to Biden's desk for his signature.