The House Armed Services Committee approved its fiscal 2020 defense authorization bill early Thursday morning and advanced it for floor consideration, CQ reported.
The Democrat-crafted bill, completed in an unusually contentious 21-hour markup, authorizes $733 billion in defense spending, which is $17 billion less than the administration’s $750 billion request. Several Republicans on the panel supported the administration’s higher topline.
The measure advanced on a largely party-line vote 33-24 with Ranking Member Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and most of the panel’s Republicans opposing the usually bipartisan NDAA legislation.
Overall, the bill reflects a 2% increase over fiscal 2019 spending, authorizing a $622.1 billion base budget and $68.1 billion for uncapped Overseas Contingency Operations accounts.
The bill would block using DOD funds for southern border barrier construction as President Donald Trump authorized in his emergency declaration in February.
Thornberry had offered an amendment to increase topline defense spending to $750 billion, but it was rejected.
After the vote, Thornberry criticized the bill’s lower funding level, according to The Hill.
“Everything in here is [the] core responsibility of this committee,” Thornberry said. “For us to authorize an amount less than the administration requested, less than the consistent testimony we have received, less than the Senate Armed Services Committee puts us at a disadvantage.”
Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and other Democrats have defended the lower funding level, arguing the Pentagon originally planned to request $733 billion late last year prior to the administration’s higher spending request.
“It’s worth noting that $733 billion, by about $17 billion, is the largest defense budget ever,” Smith said. “$733 billion is not a small amount of money.”
The bill also includes a four-year pilot program that would require the service academies to follow the recommendation of an independent prosecutor in handling sexual assault cases.
DOD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Hinton