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House passes massive $858 bill for US Defense Dept.

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Clouds pass over the US Capitol in Washington, US, January 22, 2018. (Reuters photo)

The US House has passed an $858 billion bill to fund the Defense Department next year, $45 billion more than what was proposed by President Joe Biden.

The House passed the compromise version of the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, an annual must-pass bill which sets policy for the Pentagon, sending it for a final vote in the Senate in the coming days, and then to the president to be signed into law.

The NDAA, which was released after weeks of negotiations on Tuesday night, passed with a strong backing from both Democrats and Republicans, recording 350 in favor of the bill to 80 votes against the legislation.

The defense bill is critical in shaping the US military’s future.

The legislation provides Ukraine with at least $800 million in additional security assistance next year and includes a range of provisions to strengthen Taiwan amid increasing tensions with China.

It also authorizes more funds to develop new weapons and buy systems including Lockheed Martin Corp's F-35 fighter jets and ships made by General Dynamics.

Read more:
US proposes bill to boost Chinese Taipei military with up to $10 billion in funding

Among the changes in the 2023 defense policy legislation is a provision to scrap the Pentagon’s COVID vaccine mandate for active duty service members.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had voiced support for keeping the Pentagon’s COVID vaccination policy in effect.

However, the COVID mandate had recently emerged as a red line for conservative Republicans, who threatened to reject the entire bill if it wasn’t rescinded.

Despite his support for the Pentagon’s COVID vaccine mandate, Biden is now expected to sign the defense bill after Senate's approval.

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