US Senate passes record $858 billion defense bill

WASHINGTON: The US Senate on Thursday passed a bill for a record $858 billion defense budget next year, with strong bipartisan support, authorizing $45 billion more than proposed by President Joe Biden.
The senators supported the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAAa must-have annual bill for the Pentagon, by an overwhelming vote of 83 to 11.
With the House of Representatives passing the measure last week, the NDAA is then heading to the White House, where Biden is expected to quickly sign it.
Fiscal Year 2023 NDAA authorizes $858 billion in military spending and includes a 4.6% salary increase for troops, funding for the purchase of weapons, ships and aircraft, and support for Taiwan as it faces aggression from China and Ukraine as it fights an invasion by Russia.
“We have to put defense first. It’s as simple as that,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe, the top Republican in the Senate Armed Services Committee, urging support for the bill. Inhofe retires Congress and this year’s NDAA is named after him.
The vote meant that Congress had passed the NDAA every year since 1961.
Because it’s one of the few major bills that still makes it through, lawmakers are using the NDAA as a vehicle for a range of initiatives. This year’s measure came after months of negotiations between Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate.
The fiscal year 2023 NDAA includes a provision demanded by many Republicans in Congress — and opposed by many Democrats — requiring the Secretary of Defense to rescind a warrant requiring members of the armed forces to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
An attempt to amend the bill to award back pay and reinstate troops who refused the vaccine failed.
The bill provides Ukraine with at least $800 million in additional security aid next year and includes a series of provisions aimed at bolstering Taiwan amid tensions with China, including billions of dollars security assistance and accelerated arms supply for Taiwan.
The bill authorizes more funds to develop hypersonic weapons, shut down the Red Hill bulk fuel storage facility in Hawaii and purchase weapons systems, including F-35 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin Corp and ships manufactured by General Dynamics.
The NDAA is not the final word on spending. Authorization bills create programs, but Congress must pass appropriation bills to give the government legal authority to spend federal money.
A bill to fund the government until September 30, 2023 – the end of the fiscal year – is expected to pass Congress next week.


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