By Andy Roesgen
CHICAGO, United States (AA) - The US Senate gave final approval to a $768 billion defense bill Wednesday, sending the measure to President Biden for signature.
The bill was hotly debated in the House of Representatives and the Senate, but the National Defense Authorization Act, passed overwhelmingly 89-10 in the Senate.
Among provisions in the bill is the establishment of a bipartisan congressional commission to delve into what went right and wrong during the 20-year Afghanistan war that ended in August. That report would be due within three years.
Republicans and Democrats scored wins in the bill. Republicans managed to include a $25 billion increase in defense spending that the Biden administration did not seek. Republicans argued the spending was needed to counter military build-ups by Russia and China.
Democrats wanted provisions that required young women to register for the military draft and they wanted the establishment of a Pentagon office to counter right-wing extremism in the military. But Republicans managed to get those provisions dumped from the final bill.
But Democrats got a provision that allows military members who commit crimes such as sexual assault, murder and kidnapping to be prosecuted outside the usual chain of military command. Critics contend that the military does not do enough to police its members when it comes to sexual assault.
And Democrats also successfully approved a provision that blocks state governors from using the National Guard to cross state lines for deployments, on any matter other than a natural disaster. The governor of South Dakota was heavily criticized for taking private donations to send that state’s National Guard troops to offer security at the US-Mexico border.
Republicans and Democrats did mostly agree, however, on spending for Pentagon weapons programs. The bill authorizes $27.3 billion in spending on 13 new Navy warships and adds five more ships than the Navy requested.
The bill also bumps pay for US troops by 2.7%.