Defense bill with troop pay raise headed to Obama
WASHINGTON – A defense policy bill with the largest troop pay raise in six years will now be sent to President Barack Obama following a Thursday vote in the Senate.
The Senate overwhelmingly passed the annual National Defense Authorization Act with the 2.1-percent raise, which could kick in Jan. 1, and measures to add troops and halt an Army drawdown. Last week, the House passed the $619-billion bill, which sets defense policy for 2017.
The White House threatened a veto earlier this year and over its objections Congress moved to add $3.2 billion in military priorities including the pay raise and more troops. But the administration has not issued any new warnings and the NDAA passed by large enough majorities in the House and Senate, meaning lawmakers could likely override any Obama veto.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, was an architect of the bill and urged the passage Thursday, but he also warned fellow lawmakers that greater investment is still needed to keep the military prepared.
“We are going to have to spend more money but we are also going to have to spend it more wisely,” McCain said.
He blamed Democrats and Republicans for not removing “mindless” budget caps that have held down defense spending since 2013.
The House originally proposed adding $18 billion worth of additional defense priorities into the NDAA, which could have broken the spending caps agreed to by Congress. But the final compromise bill passed Thursday backed off such a major increase and instead opted for the $3.2-billion bump.
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