House passes defense authorization bill

By Tony Bertuca / September 24, 2021 at 9:09 AM

The House voted 316-113 Thursday night to pass the fiscal year 2022 defense authorization bill, clearing the way for nearly $778 billion in defense spending.

“For 61 consecutive years, the House has proven that our collective commitment to U.S. national security can help us rise above partisanship,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) said in a statement. “Instead of focusing on what divides us, each year we choose to pass a defense bill that fulfills Congress’ constitutional obligation to ‘provide for the common defense’-- and we do so by focusing on what we have in common as Americans.”

Lawmakers considered more than 400 amendments on the floor, voting 142-286 to reject a provision backed by progressive Democrats that would have undone a $25 billion increase to the bill’s topline.

Smith said he opposed a GOP-led effort to increase total defense spending by $25 billion more than the White House’s request but said on the House floor that he respected the fact he had been outvoted.

“In an era where our politics is so dominated by divisiveness, it has never mattered more to show the American people that democracy still works,” he said in his statement. “As the legislative process continues and we head to the conference with our colleagues in the Senate, I am confident that our work will reflect the bipartisan tradition that has distinguished the Armed Services Committees for decades.”

The Senate Armed Services Committee, meanwhile, filed its version of the bill earlier this week. That bill also increases total defense by $25 billion more that the White House’s request.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), the House Armed Services Committee’s ranking member, applauded the bill’s passage in the House.

“Providing the authorities and resources our troops need to defend our nation and defeat our adversaries is the greatest responsibility we have here in Congress,” he said. “I thank my colleague Chairman Adam Smith for working with us to produce this bipartisan bill and I’m glad to see its passage with overwhelming bipartisan support.”

The bill would also require U.S. women to register for a potential military draft, which was unpopular with some conservative Republicans.

Lawmakers also voted down an amendment that would have restricted the U.S. military’s submission of unfunded priorities lists to Congress.

Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR), a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, offered an amendment that would have allowed the six military branches to continue submitting the lists, but would have barred all combatant commands from doing so, except for U.S. Special Operations Command. Schrader’s amendment would also have barred the National Guard and Missile Defense Agency from submitting unfunded priorities lists.

But the amendment was defeated 167-256.

Congress received more than $25 billion in unfunded priorities lists following the White House's regular budget submission in April, and House and Senate authorizers have used the lists as a guide to write defense policy bills that boost defense spending.