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Senate Passes Defense Bill with Bipartisan Support, House Divided on Social Issues

The Senate has passed a massive annual defense bill with bipartisan support. The bill includes a 5.2% pay raise for service members and ensures the continued operation of the nation’s military. This bipartisan vote contrasts with the House, which passed its own version of the defense bill along party lines. The House version was marked by contentious debates over social issues like abortion access and diversity initiatives. The two chambers will now have to reconcile their differences in the fall.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer highlighted the “glaring contrast” between the two chambers’ defense bills. The Senate vote was characterized by a lack of animosity and acrimony, in contrast to the highly partisan battles in the House. Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, acknowledged that neither party got everything they wanted in the Senate bill, but underscored its importance in improving military recruitment and preventing conflict.

The Senate defense bill sets defense spending levels at $886 billion for the coming year, aligning with President Joe Biden’s budget request. However, separate spending legislation is still required to allocate the funds. The bill outlines the budget and policy for the Pentagon. The House debate on the bill included amendments that leaned towards the right, with proposals to roll back diversity and inclusion measures at the Pentagon, as well as limitations on medical care for transgender personnel.

Meanwhile, the Senate focused on bipartisan additions to the bill that addressed military policy and countering potential adversaries. One provision requires a two-thirds Senate approval if a U.S. president tries to withdraw from NATO. Other amendments include preventing certain countries from purchasing agricultural land in the U.S., increasing oversight of U.S. investment in Russian and Chinese technology firms, and implementing sanctions against individuals involved in the international fentanyl trade. Additionally, the bill includes language mandating the collection and review of records related to unidentified aerial phenomena.

One unresolved issue is Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville’s hold on the quick confirmation of military nominations and promotions in the Senate. His protest is aimed at the Defense Department’s abortion policy. Tuberville’s hold has blocked action on over 260 nominations, causing frustration among Pentagon leaders and his colleagues. The House bill includes a provision that would end the Defense Department’s new abortion policy, but it is unlikely to pass the Democratic-led Senate.

In summary, the Senate has successfully passed a defense bill with bipartisan support, while the House has faced division over social issues. The two chambers will now need to reconcile their differences to finalize the legislation.

Associated Press writer Fatima Hussein contributed to this report.


Unique Perspective: The passage of the defense bill by the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support demonstrates a commitment to prioritizing national security and military readiness. The ability to set aside partisan disagreements and find common ground on defense policy is essential for the effective functioning of our armed forces. Moving forward, it is crucial for both chambers of Congress to work together to reconcile their differences and deliver a final bill that upholds our commitment to a strong and capable military.

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