Senate approves $883.7 billion defense spending bill, stripped of anti-DEI and transgender care provisions


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The Senate has passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal 2024, with a budget of $883.7 billion, marking a 3% increase from last year. The bill, which now heads to the House, allocates $841.4 billion to the Pentagon and has garnered bipartisan support, reflecting a united front on U.S. national security.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and other senators from both parties have lauded the bill’s passage, emphasizing the importance of cooperation in Congress, especially in matters of national defense. The bill includes a notable 5.2% pay raise for military and civilian Department of Defense employees.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) acknowledged the bill’s balance, while Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, highlighted the bill’s focus on servicemembers’ welfare, including pay raises and improved access to housing, education, and childcare.

“While no bill is perfect, the passage of the defense authorization bill makes us a stronger nation and provides certainty and predictability to our armed forces at a time of growing threats,” said Graham.

“This NDAA takes care of our servicemembers and their families, providing the largest pay raise in decades and improving housing, education, and childcare access,” said Reed.

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), a key Republican on the committee, expressed hope that the bill’s investments would send a strong message to global competitors like China and Russia.

“While I would have preferred to send the president a substantially larger proposed investment in our industrial base, he now should approve the monumental investments Congress intends to make in our servicemembers, warships, submarines, aircraft, and technology,” he said.

The final bill saw the removal of divisive provisions related to abortion, transgender care, and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, which had been included in the House version. This omission sparked criticism from conservatives, with Rep. Eric Burlison (R-MO) expressing dissatisfaction on social media.

Among the dropped provisions were amendments on Pentagon policies for abortion travel expenses, taxpayer-funded gender transition surgery, race-based admissions to military academies, diversity officers, drag queen events, and oversight for Ukraine aid.

“‘Compromise’ in DC always means Conservatives lose,” Rep. Eric Burlison (R-MO) posted on X.

One of the most controversial elements of the NDAA is the short-term extension of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Section 702. This section permits warrantless surveillance of foreign nationals outside the U.S. but has raised concerns over potential abuse and privacy infringement for Americans. Over 50 Congress members, including the House Freedom Caucus and Congressional Progressive Caucus, opposed this extension.

Efforts by Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mike Lee (R-UT) to remove the FISA extension were unsuccessful. Paul expressed concerns about unchecked intelligence agency powers and violations of Americans’ rights. Lee, disappointed with the outcome, voiced his concerns on social media, urging the House to stop 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,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) posted on X. “This is not good. The House should #StopTheNDAA.”

“That means that once again, the intelligence agencies that ignore the constraints on their power will go unaddressed and unpunished, and the warrantless surveillance of Americans in the violation of the Bill of Rights will continue,” said Paul.

FBI Director Christopher Wray defended the FISA extension, arguing it is crucial for staying ahead of foreign threats and ensuring national security.

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