But in several other areas, the Senate’s massive funding measure, which matches the overall defense budget request from the Trump administration, is expected to be challenged in the Democratic-led House. There, lawmakers drafting their own defense authorization bill are expected to seek less funding and oppose several of the policy proposals in the Senate’s bill.
One area of possible dispute between the chambers is the Senate’s plan to devote $3.6 billion to replenish funds that President Trump has diverted from military construction projects to pay for a border wall between the United States and Mexico. House Democrats have pledged not to backfill those accounts, in protest over what they contend is an illegitimate emergency declaration to build what they say is an unnecessary wall.
The Senate’s bill is silent on matters pertaining to Saudi Arabia and the military campaign it is leading in Yemen — a break from last year, when Congress used the defense authorization bill to demand that the administration certify that Riyadh was taking steps to mitigate the humanitarian crisis in the war-torn nation. In the time since, Trump has ignored those and other congressionally imposed deadlines to weigh in on Saudi actions, including its crown prince’s apparent order to kill Saudi journalist and Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi, with sanctions recommendations and other measures.
Trump’s resistance to congressional efforts to monitor and restrict the U.S.-Saudi relationship is one of several factors that prompted the House and Senate to vote earlier this year to end U.S. participation in Yemen’s civil war. Trump quashed that effort with a veto, but the House has revived efforts to pull the United States out of Yemen’s war in its annual spending measure.
Earlier this week, the House Appropriations Committee approved a fiscal 2020 defense spending bill that committed far less money — $690.2 billion — toward the Pentagon’s overall budget than the Senate’s authorization bill envisions. That measure also sought to sunset the 2001 authorization for use of military force that the administration has used to justify hostilities in various theaters including Yemen — and, Democratic lawmakers fear, potentially Iran.
Ongoing threats from Iran, Russia, North Korea and China are behind several of the provisions in the Senate bill that seek to commit more funding than the Trump administration had requested to support U.S. Cyber Command and various other cyberdefense efforts — an endeavor likely to secure bipartisan support — and underwrite the modernization and development of the country’s missile defenses — a budget that could be challenged by Democrats in the House.
The Senate bill also lays out a plan for the creation of a U.S. Space Force within the U.S. Air Force, to be headed by a commander, but not an undersecretary. After a year, that commander would be included as a permanent member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for space-related issues.
Military housing is another area in which the Senate’s bill outlines a comprehensive reorganization, creating a Tenant Bill of Rights, a dispute resolution process, and establishing new quality, health and hazard standards for the private companies contracted to provide and maintain residences for personnel.
But in the realm of sexual assault, the differences are less dramatic. Although the bill seeks to strengthen protections, it contains no language to remove decision-making authority about how to handle such charges from the chain of command, according to a committee aide.
The Senate bill also authorizes a 3.1 percent pay increase for service members.
In a statement, Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, heralded the measure as one that “ensures our service members — all volunteers — and their families have the training, resources and equipment they need to complete the mission,” adding that he expected the measure would get “strong support” on the Senate floor.
The ranking Democrat on the committee, Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.), called the bill “a positive step forward” that will “provide our troops with the tools and training they need today, while also looking forward and addressing the challenges of tomorrow.”