Senate passes defense policy bill with 5.2% pay raise for troops

Washington: The Senate passed a defense policy bill Wednesday that authorizes the biggest pay raise for troops in more than two decades, but also leaves behind many of the policy priorities that social conservatives were clamoring for, making for an unusually divisive debate over what is traditionally a strongly bipartisan effort.

Lawmakers have been negotiating a final bill for months after each chamber passed strikingly different versions in July. Some of the priorities championed by social conservatives were a no-go for Democrats, so negotiators dropped them from the final product to get it over the finish line.

The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 87-13, and now it heads to the House, where opponents have been more vocal about their concerns.

Most notably, the bill does not include language blocking the Pentagon’s abortion travel policy and restricting gender-affirming health care for transgender service members and dependents. Republicans prevailed, however, in winning some concessions on diversity and inclusion training in the military. For example, the bill freezes hiring for such training until a full accounting of the programming and costs is completed and reported to Congress.

The bill sets key Pentagon policy that lawmakers will attempt to fund through a follow-up appropriations bill. Lawmakers were keen to emphasize how the bill calls for a 5.2% boost in service member pay, the biggest increase in more than 20 years. The bill authorizes $886 billion for national defense programs for the current fiscal year that began Oct. 1, about 3% more than the prior year.

Image courtesy of (Military Walled)

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