By Zachary Stieber
The Senate voted 86-8 to approve the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which the House passed last week.
“We’ll finally put this vital legislation on the president’s desk. I look forward to voting to pass the NDAA today by another overwhelming bipartisan vote for our service members and the critical missions they carry out,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor before the vote.
The bill includes 12 weeks of paid family leave for all military workers, a 3.1 percent pay increase for the troops, and the creation of a U.S. Space Force. Several lawmakers said they were pleased with the creation of the force, the first new branch of the U.S. military in more than 60 years and a top military priority for Trump.
Trump championed the bill last week, writing on Twitter: “Wow! All of our priorities have made it into the final NDAA: Pay Raise for our Troops, Rebuilding our Military, Paid Parental Leave, Border Security, and Space Force! Congress – don’t delay this anymore! I will sign this historic defense legislation immediately!”
A few left-leaning Democrats and libertarian-leaning Republicans voted against the NDAA because it did not include policy planks that would have restrained Trump’s war powers, including banning support for Saudi Arabia’s air campaign in Yemen.
Some also objected to the increase in military spending, as the national debt is skyrocketing.
“Conservatism is about more than supporting military spending at any cost,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said.
The NDAA also does not bar the Republican president from using military funds to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico.
Those provisions were included in the House’s version of the NDAA, but not in the Senate’s. They were removed during the negotiations.
Democratic leaders said they had extracted some concessions from Republicans, including the paid family leave.
The fiscal 2020 NDAA increases defense spending by about $20 billion. It includes $658.4 billion for the Department of Defense and Department of Energy national security programs, $71.5 billion to pay for ongoing foreign wars and $5.3 billion in emergency funding for repairs from natural disasters.
Reuters contributed to this report.