The final 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed the House on Wednesday 377-48 at a massive and unprecedented $738 billion, in a nearly united Republican vote which also included over 180 House Democrats. It marks a $22 billion spending increase for the Pentagon.
It's expected to be signed by President Trump likely next week after it goes through the Senate, after it was stripped of all significant items the administration would find objectionable, including a controversial War Powers Act resolution meant to end US involvement in Yemen and which would would have required Congressional approval for military action against Iran.
Interestingly, the House bill also removed language that blocked the Pentagon from researching low-yield nuclear weapons, and the House also backed away from controversial border wall restrictions.
Long sought after sanctions targeting Russia's Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline to Germany were added. Trump had previously accused Berlin of handing "billions" of dollars to the Russians to the detriment of Ukraine, whose gas transit facilities will be bypassed by the new Gazprom spearheaded venture, set for completion within months. Expanded and severe new sanctions were also added against Syria, known as the 'Caesar bill'.
Crucially, Trump's 'Space Force' will now become a reality. As Defense News explains:
In a history making win for Trump, the agreement would add a new armed service, dedicated to space, under Title 10 of U.S. Code, which was an action the White House saw as pivotal to solidifying it as a fully independent military branch. The Space Force would be housed within the Air Force and led by the chief of space operations, who would report directly to the Air Force secretary and be a member of the Joint Chiefs.
Meanwhile, the most vocal progressive Democrat opponent of the massive defense spending bill, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), had this to say in a floor speech ahead of Wednesday's vote: "there are many things you can call the bill, but it's Orwellian to call it progressive."
"Let's speak in facts," said Khanna. "This defense budget is $120 billion more than what Obama left us with. That could fund free public college for every American. It could fund access to high-speed, affordable internet for every American. But it's worse. The bipartisan amendment to stop the war in Yemen: stripped by the White House. The bipartisan amendment to stop the war in Iran: stripped by the White House."
Indeed, the most worrisome aspect to the new NDAA is that it makes it easier for the White House to go to war with Iran, at a moment tensions continue to soar.