The Senate Armed Services Committee voted to pass its version of the fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), proposing to boost defense spending by roughly $45 billion over what President Biden requested.
We’ll have more details on the bill, plus the Senate’s recent vote on a bill to expand benefits for veterans suffering health effects from toxic exposure, as well as a newly reported details on a call between Biden and top officials over rhetoric on Ukraine.
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The Senate Armed Services Committee voted 23-3 to pass its version of its fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), proposing to boost defense spending by roughly $45 billion over what President Biden requested.
The bill now heads to the Senate floor, where the full upper chamber will consider the legislation.
Well above: The top lines are well above the $802.4 billion that the House Armed Services Committee is poised to consider when it reviews its version of the NDAA next Wednesday.
Soon to come: Once the House passes its bill, both versions will then be reconciled during the conference committee process into one bill that the House and Senate will have to pass.
Even then, the NDAA is a policy bill that sets funding levels and guides policy, but it does not hold budget power. Therefore, an appropriations bill will still need to be passed.
Addressing inflation: In a summary of the Senate bill, the committee says it approved the $45 billion boost to “address the effects of inflation and accelerate the implementation of the National Defense Strategy.”
Inflation quickly emerged as a key debate point when Biden released his proposal for national defense spending earlier this year. Republicans have demanded that Biden increase defense spending for fiscal 2023 by 3 to 5 percent above inflation.
Other aid: The top line also provides additional security assistance to Ukraine, allows for accelerated production of certain munitions, and more funding for additional military construction projects and facilities maintenance.
The Senate on Thursday voted 84-14 to pass legislation expanding benefits for veterans suffering health effects from toxic exposures during their military service.
The bill is named for Sgt. 1st Class Heath Robinson, who deployed to Iraq and Kosovo with the Ohio National Guard. He died in 2020 of cancer that he developed as a result to exposure to burn pits during his deployment.
Some background: Servicemembers have been exposed to toxins throughout history, though Thursday’s legislation is largely aimed at helping veterans who were exposed to burn pits in the post-9/11 era.
'Too damn long': In remarks on the Senate floor, Tester said that passing the bill was “righting a wrong that has been ignored for just way too damn long.”
“Generations after generations of Americans have gone to war, backed by a promise that we made to them when they signed up that we would care for them when they got home,” Tester said.
“Unfortunately, that didn’t happen in the case of toxic exposure. We failed them,” he added.
What the bill also does: In addition to expanding VA care eligibility to post-9/11 veterans, the bill creates a framework for the VA to establish presumptive service connections related to toxic exposures. It also adds 23 burn pit and toxic exposure-related conditions to the agency’s list of presumptive service connections.
The legislation also expands presumptions related to Agent Orange — used largely during the Vietnam War — to veterans who served in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Guam, among other places.
President Biden told Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken in April to tone down their rhetoric in supporting Ukraine in its war against Russia, NBC News reported Thursday.
Not pleased: During a later conference call, Biden told the two officials he thought their remarks went too far and to tone them down, multiple current and former administration officials familiar with the call told NBC.
One unidentified official told the network that Biden was concerned that Austin’s words could set unrealistic goals and up the chance Washington could get pulled into a direct conflict with Moscow.
“Biden was not happy when Blinken and Austin talked about winning in Ukraine,” one of the sources said. “He was not happy with the rhetoric.”
Concerns: But U.S. officials are growing more worried that Ukraine’s views are untenable, saying behind the scenes the Ukrainian president should shift his public position and “dial it back a little bit,” one of seven current U.S. officials, former U.S. officials and European officials told NBC.
Experts and U.S. and European officials have voiced a belief that Russian President Vladimir Putin will attempt to claim the Donbas and declare it as Russian territory, with Zelensky then having to negotiate for peace to end the conflict.
No pressure: The Biden administration, meanwhile, has maintained that it will not pressure Kyiv to end the war on any specific terms and is preparing for a long war.
“From the beginning, I’ve said and I’ve been — not everyone has agreed with me — nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine. It’s their territory. I’m not going to tell them what they should and shouldn’t do,” Biden said on June 3. “But it appears to me that, at some point along the line, there’s going to have to be a negotiated settlement here. And what that entails, I don’t know.”
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