WASHINGTON (Dispatches) -- The U.S. House of Representatives backed legislation on Thursday paving the way for the military budget to hit a record $858 billion next year, $45 billion more than proposed by President Joe Biden.
The House passed the compromise version of the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, an annual must-pass bill setting policy for the Pentagon, by 350-80, far exceeding the two-thirds majority required to pass the legislation and send it for a vote in the Senate.
The fiscal 2023 NDAA authorizes $858 billion in military spending and includes a 4.6% pay increase for the troops, funding for purchases of weapons, ships and aircraft; and support for Taiwan against China and Ukraine as it fights a war with Russia.
“This bill is Congress exercising its authority to authorize and do oversight,” said Representative Adam Smith, the Democratic chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, in a speech urging support for the measure.
Because it is one of the few major bills passed every year, members of Congress use the NDAA as a vehicle for a range of initiatives, some unrelated to defense.
This year’s bill - the result of months of negotiations between Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate - needed a two-thirds majority in the House after disagreement from some House members over whether it should include an amendment on voting rights.
The fiscal 2023 NDAA includes a provision demanded by many Republicans requiring the Pentagon chief to rescind a mandate requiring that members of the armed forces get COVID-19 vaccinations.
It provides Ukraine at least $800 million in additional security assistance next year and includes a range of provisions to strengthen Taiwan amid tensions with China.
The bill includes up to $10 billion in military grant assistance for Taiwan and seeks to expedite arms sales to the island, drawing a rebuke from Beijing.
The NDAA for 2023 would authorize
grant assistance for Taiwan of up to $2 billion per year from 2023 through 2027.
The act also authorizes Biden to provide Taiwan with up to $1 billion per year in military data-x-items from U.S. stockpiles or other services such as military training.
And it requires the secretaries of state and defense to “prioritize and expedite the processing of requests from Taiwan under the Foreign Military Sales program.”
The NDAA “will dramatically enhance the United States defense partnership with Taiwan,” Senator Bob Menendez, the Foreign Relations Committee chair, said in a statement ahead of the bill’s passage.
Beijing was “firmly opposed to the U.S. using the National Defense Authorization Act to pass negative content related to China,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning told reporters after the bill was passed.
Beijing claims Taiwan as part of its territory – to be reunited one day by force, if necessary – and has become more bellicose toward the island under President Xi Jinping.
It has responded with growing anger to visits by Western politicians and staged huge military drills to protest U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan in August, sending tensions to the highest level in years.
The bill also authorizes more funds to develop new weapons and purchase systems including Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-35 fighter jets and ships made by General Dynamics.
The Senate is expected to pass the NDAA next week, sending it to the White House for President Joe Biden to sign into law.
However, the NDAA is not the final word on spending. Authorization bills create programs but Congress must pass appropriations bills to give the government legal authority to spend federal money.
Congressional leaders have not yet agreed on an appropriations bill for next year.