In a last-minute rush to sanction spending before the end of the year, the Senate enacted a $886 billion defense spending proposal Wednesday, sponsored by President Joe Biden, that includes financing for Ukraine, yearly pay hikes for personnel, and most controversially, a reauthorization of the the National Defense Authorization Act
The NDAA funds Pentagon objectives such as training and equipment. The Act was approved by a bipartisan majority of 87-13 in the Senate. For the last 61 years in a row, Congress has advanced the must-pass defense budget measure.
“At a time of huge trouble for global security, doing the defense authorization bill is more important than ever,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “Passing the NDAA enables us to hold the line against Russia, stand firm against the Chinese Communist Party and ensure America’s defense remain state of the art at all times.”
The package now moves to the House, where some conservative Republicans have vowed to derail it after legislators removed disputed elements that would have changed the Pentagon’s abortion policy and provide certain so-called “transgender” medical procedures.
The NDAA approved by the Senate is a compromise version of the budget package passed by the House earlier this year. The House version includes elements aimed at the Pentagon’s transgender health care regulations, as well as an amendment to repeal a Pentagon policy that reimburses out-of-state travel for service members who have abortions.
Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), opposed the abortion policy for ten months by delaying any military promotions in the Senate.
The Senate National Defense Authorization Act has measures that will:
- Authorize $844.3 billion for the Department of Defense and $32.4 billion for national security programs within the Department of Energy
- Support Defense department activities among Australia, United Kingdom, and the United States
- Extend the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative through fiscal year 2027 and authorize the full budget request of $300 million in fiscal year 2024
- Provide a 5.2 percent pay raise for military servicemembers and the Defense department civilian workforce
- Support requested funding for naval vessels, combat aircraft, armored vehicles, weapon systems and munitions
- Renew the secretive FISA Court and rubber-stamp mass warrantless surveillance
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) was one of just thirteen senators that rejected the NDAA.
The Senate just voted to waive the point of order against the NDAA.
35 of us opposed the motion to waive.
We needed only 41 to prevent this outcome, and to remove FISA 702 from the NDAA.
This is not good.
The House should #StopTheNDAA.
— Mike Lee (@BasedMikeLee) December 13, 2023
“The Senate just voted to waive the point of order against the NDAA,” Lee said prior to the bill’s passage. “35 of us opposed the motion to waive. We needed only 41 to prevent this outcome, and to remove FISA 702 from the NDAA.”
“This is not good,” he added. “The House should #StopTheNDAA.”
Earlier, Sen. Lee called out the “warrantless backdoor surveillance” of Americans.
Don’t use the national defense bill to spy on Americans.
— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) December 13, 2023
Edward Snowden, a famous whistleblower who once worked at the National Security Agency, also reacted to the NDAA’s renewal.
By 6 votes, the Senate just forced through a violation of your constitutional rights. Now all eyes turn to the House. They will put it to a vote TOMORROW.
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) December 14, 2023
“By 6 votes, the Senate just forced through a violation of your constitutional rights,” he remarked. “Now all eyes turn to the House. They will put it to a vote TOMORROW.”
“Call your representative, because this is your last chance. Tell them ‘#StopTheNDAA’,” he said.
The NDAA included a provision to prolong Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) until mid-April, avoiding its expiration at the end of the year as Congress debates four rival measures to renew and alter the legislation.
“Obviously the House has been in chaos and our legislative business has been disrupted. So I think it’s an appropriate extension that gives us the ability to address 702. By extending it, we avoid the calamity,” caused by a lapse of an important national security tool, Chair Mike Turner (R-Ohio) told reporters last week.
Section 702 theoretically only permits the government to eavesdrop on foreigners in other countries, but whistleblowers have pointed out how the NDAA provision still allows for backdoor searches of Americans’ information if they converse with a target.