House lawmakers approved their version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in a 363–70 vote on Dec. 7, axing provisions that would have expanded the military draft to women and ended U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.
The $768 billion military budgeting bill sent to the Senate is above and beyond the $733 billion spent in 2021 and the $753 billion sought by the Biden administration. Many national security officials are advocating for an indefinite 5 percent increase in military spending to both maintain the global war on terror and confront China and Russia.
To those ends, the House NDAA would provide $7.1 billion for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI), devoting more resources to building up forces in the Indo-Pacific region—in keeping with the Pentagon’s plans to upgrade bases in Australia and throughout the Pacific as part of its strategy to confront China’s growing influence in the region.
The House NDAA would also include $300 million in security assistance to Ukraine as tensions mount along the country’s Russian border.
Following the vote, the House Armed Services Committee touted the measure’s “historic investments in our diverse fighting force, innovation, and emerging technologies.”
Of the opponents to the legislation, 51 were Democrats and 19 were Republicans.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who didn’t vote, stated her reasons on Twitter for not supporting the legislation.
“With no accountability of the military leaders who armed the Taliban Islamic terrorist nation of Afghanistan, abandoned Americans, and killed 13 soldiers needlessly, funding the NDAA would be providing money to leaders who failed and left our military demoralized,” Green wrote.
Along with the spending boost, lawmakers removed provisions from the NDAA that would have made major changes to U.S. national security policy: one that would have expanded military draft registration to women and another that would have ended U.S. support for the Saudi military campaign in Yemen.
Both provisions were stripped from the NDAA without public debate.
In a separate vote on Dec. 7, the Senate also voted down Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) resolution to block the sale of roughly $650 million in arms to the Saudis. Paul, Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) co-sponsored the resolution on the grounds that the continued support for the Saudis is fueling a humanitarian disaster in Yemen.
“A message needs to be sent to Saudi Arabia that we don’t approve of their war with Yemen,” Paul said when announcing the resolution on Nov. 18. “By participating in this sale, we would not only be rewarding reprehensible behavior, but also exacerbating a humanitarian crisis in Yemen.”
Before the Dec. 7 vote, the White House released a statement in opposition, saying that the weapon sales are for defensive purposes only.
“These missiles are not used to engage ground targets; Saudi Arabia uses these munitions to defend against aerial cross-border attacks, such as Houthi explosive-laden drones,” the White House statement reads. “The passage of [Paul’s resolution] would undermine the President’s commitment to aid in our partner’s defenses at a time of increased missile and drone attacks against civilians in Saudi Arabia.”
The resolution made it to debate on the Senate floor on Dec. 7, with Paul and Sanders speaking in its favor.
“In Yemen, 5 million people are one step away from succumbing to famine and disease, and 10 million more are right behind them,” Paul said. “We can start the process of ending this crisis by enacting this resolution of disapproval.”
Sanders said: “We should not be rewarding the Saudi government with more arms sales. We should be demanding they end the war in Yemen, which has killed more than 230,000 people.”
However, the resolution failed in a 67–30 vote. Paul and Lee were the only two Republicans to vote in favor of it.