US House passes massive defence Bill, which now heads to Senate

The Bill increases pay for military troops and mandates 12 weeks' paid leave so federal workers can care for their families.
The Bill increases pay for military troops and mandates 12 weeks' paid leave so federal workers can care for their families.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The United States House of Representatives approved on Wednesday (Dec 11) a US$738 billion (S$1 trillion) Bill setting policy for the US Department of Defence on everything from family leave to fighter jets and the creation of a Space Force that has been a priority for President Donald Trump.

The count in the Democratic-controlled chamber was 377-48, enough to send the conference report on the National Defence Authorisation Act, or NDAA, to the Senate, where a vote is expected by the end of next week. Mr Trump has promised to sign the legislation as soon as it passes Congress.

A handful of mostly left-leaning House Democrats opposed the Bill because it did not include policy planks including a ban on support for Saudi Arabia's air campaign in Yemen and a measure barring Mr Trump from using military funds to build a wall on the border with Mexico.

Those had been included in a version of the NDAA the House passed in October, but not in the version passed by the Republican-controlled Senate. They were removed during several months of negotiations with Senate Republicans and Trump administration officials.

The fiscal 2020 NDAA increases defence spending by about US$20 billion, or about 2.8 per cent, and creates a Space Force as a new branch of the US military, both Trump priorities.

It increases pay for the troops by 3.1 per cent and mandates 12 weeks' paid leave so federal workers can care for their families.

And it includes foreign policy provisions including sanctions on Turkey over its purchase of a Russian missile defence system, and a tough response to North Korea's efforts to develop nuclear weapons.