By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives voted 393-27 on Tuesday to send its version of a sweeping bill setting policy for the Pentagon to a conference with the Senate, paving the way for negotiations to narrow the deep gap between the two rooms. issues such as access to abortion and diversity initiatives.
The massive bill — this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA — authorizes a record $886 billion in military spending. It typically passes both chambers of Congress in a largely bipartisan manner.
But this year, the Republican-controlled House passed its version of the bill by a narrow 219-210 vote, with Democrats voting no after far-right Republicans added amendments that addressed current social issues, such as the repeal of the Pentagon’s reimbursement policy expenses for service members traveling to obtain an abortion.
The broad support for sending the measure to conference reflected the hope of many Democrats that a conference with the Democratic-majority Senate would produce a more moderate NDAA.
The Senate passed its version of the bill, without such provisions, by a vote of 86-11.
Representatives of the two chambers will now meet to iron out differences between the two versions of the legislation and write a final bill. That, in turn, must pass through both chambers before being sent to the White House for President Joe Biden to sign or veto the bill.
The NDAA, which is separate from the appropriations laws that determine the level of government spending, regulates everything from pay raises for the troops — this year it will be 5.2% — to the purchase of ships and planes and policies such as aid to Ukraine.
It is one of the few major laws that Congress passes each year, and has become law annually since 1961.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Bill Berkrot)