House narrowly passes defense spending bill as clock ticks toward shutdown

By Tony Bertuca / September 29, 2023 at 10:33 AM

The GOP-led House, facing the increasing likelihood of a government shutdown on Oct. 1, narrowly passed an annual defense appropriations bill last night that has little-to-zero chance in the Democrat-led Senate and would be vetoed by President Biden over its inclusion of conservative policy riders and politically divisive amendments that would, among other things, strip military aid to Ukraine and cut Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s salary to $1.

The bill, which would provide $826 billion for the Defense Department, passed 218-210, includes other measures that restrict abortion access for U.S. servicemembers and targets the Pentagon’s diversity initiatives and climate-change-mitigation efforts.

Statements from House Republicans touted the bill as key to their fight against the Pentagon’s attempts at social engineering, while Democrats criticized the GOP for doubling down on a doomed bill at the 11th hour before a federal shutdown.

The bill passed following two unsuccessful floor votes last week that forced GOP leadership to re-work the legislation and remove $300 million in aid to Ukraine. Democrats uniformly oppose the measure for its inclusion of conservative amendments and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) needed to remove the aid money to win a handful of Republican holdouts.

A bill that would provide the aid had to be approved separately by a 311-117 vote, with more than half the GOP caucus voting against it.

The bill is unlikely to be embraced by the Democrat-led Senate, which has been working on defense spending legislation that has more bipartisan support and does not include the “anti-woke” measures sought by House Republicans.

Meanwhile, Congress has yet to pass a stopgap continuing resolution needed to avert an Oct. 1 government shutdown, which would force U.S. servicemembers to work without pay and result in the furlough of thousands of DOD civilians.