Pentagon & Congress

A bigger Army, military pay raise: White House says no, House votes yes

House lawmakers have brushed aside an array of Democrat objections and a White House veto threats on Thursday to pass their controversial $583 billion defense authorization bill for fiscal 2017, setting up a summer-long negotiation with their Senate counterparts senators over military policy and priorities.

The 277-147 vote came after two days of floor debate on the measure, which calls for a 2.1 percent military pay raise starting for troops next January, a big boost in Army personnel end strength and an overhaul of the military medical care system. Lawmakers voted 277-147 in favor of the bill after two days of debate.

Those individual provisions didn't raise objections from Democrats, but how Republicans will pay for them did.

The authorization plan, coupled in tandem with a pending defense appropriations bill, would shift $18 billion in temporary war funds into the base defense budget to pay for what Republicans call claim are unmet military needs. That keeps spending loosely within parameters set up by Congress and the White House, part of in a two-year budget deal reached last fall.

But such a The move would not only leave overseas missions without any funding past next April, and but would also create billions more in future infrastructure and personnel costs in coming years. White House and Pentagon officials in recent days have criticized blasted the plan, saying it amounts to as "gambling" with military spending. President Obama and the president has threatened to veto it the measure.

But House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, says pushed back on those criticisms, saying financial fixes are needed immediately.

"Just think about what the alternative is: 'No, we're not going to help troops now, because we're not sure where the money is going to come from next year or in five years or in 10 years,'" he said. "But in the meantime, while we're not sure about all of that … more people stand in danger of losing their lives."

So far, Senate Republicans have declined to go along with their House counterparts’ funding plan. They’ll take up their own draft on the Senate floor next week, and, if passed, send the two versions of the annual legislation to a conference committee in early June.

Democrats who objected But the funding fight wasn’t Democrats' only objection to the measure took issue with its . Supporters pushed back amendments to trim billions from the bill’s final cost, the to repeal the 2001 authorization of military force used to governing operations against the Islamic State group in Iraq today, and strip away funding restrictions related to on closing the closure of detention facilities in at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

They A day earlier, Democrats also objected when to the rules committee dumping language was dropped from the bill that would have required women to register for the Selective Service System, a provision that has support in the Senate, and to wording .One of the most emotional fights came over language that states certain federal contractors cannot be discriminated against on the basis of religion. That, a provision, critics say, id actually legitimizes discrimination against gay and bisexual employees.

House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith, D-Wash., said those points of conflict forced him to vote against the measure.

"They have misused the rules process to avoid votes on women's equality, labor laws, and taxpayer-funded discrimination against LGBT individuals, while adding further restrictions on transfers from the Guantanamo detention facility, cutting funds for nuclear nonproliferation, and adopting a range of other highly problematic provisions," he said in a statement.

The Along with the personnel issues, the House authorization also includes multiple pieces from the the services’ $22 billion list of "unfunded priorities." There's That includes $1.4 billion for 14 F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets aircraft for the Navy, and $1.5 billion to allow for the purchase for 11 additional extra Lockheed Martin-manufactured F-35s. The Air Force would get five more additional F-35As for the Air Force, and the Marine Corps would get two extra F-35Bs.

McCain slams USAF chief Welsh on A-10 effectiveness

Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, ripped into Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh for not having an effective close air support replacement for the A-10.

For the third consecutive year, the panel rejected an Air Force plan to retire its aging A-10 attack planes. Instead, it would requires the service Air Force to maintain at least minimum of 171 Warthogs A-10 aircraft and bars significant cuts to manning cuts levels related to any A-10 units.

For the Army, the bill authorizesd an extra $700 million extra for helicopter buys, $150 million more for two V-22 Ospreys and $95 million more for one Northrop Grumman-made MQ-4C Triton, a surveillance drone being developed by the Navy. There's funding, too, for And it includes a new littoral combat ship, a new amphibious ship, and the remaining balance completes financing for a partially funded destroyer partially funded from last year.

President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the annual defense authorization bill each of the eight years of his presidency, but followed through with that threat for the first time last year. Only 40 Democrats voted for the measure in the Republican controlled House. The, and the 142 Democrats who voted against it would almost be enough to prevent an override of a presidential veto. 

Final congressional passage of the measure isn't expected until this fall.

Reporter Joe Gould contributed to this story.

Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at lshane@militarytimes.com.

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