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Legislative Affairs

June 23, 2023

National Security in the Spotlight as NDAA, Defense Appropriations Advance

National Security in the Spotlight as NDAA, Defense Appropriations Advance

In a flurry of legislative activity on national security policy and funding legislation, the House Armed Services Committee passed the FY24 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) after a marathon 17-hour markup that went until the early hours of the morning Thursday. The measure authorizes $886 billion in discretionary spending for defense purposes, consistent with the budget levels delineated in the recent debt limit agreement. The panel considered more than 800 amendments, with extensive and contentious debate on a slew of amendments offered by Republicans targeting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives at the Pentagon. The committee passed the NDAA package 58-1, with only Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) voting in opposition.

The Senate Armed Services Committee also marked up its version of the FY24 NDAA legislation in its various subcommittees and at full Committee this week. The full committee markup was completed in a closed session and at the time of this writing on Friday is not yet available to the public.

On spending fronts, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees moved forward with markups on several FY24 appropriations bills this week – though at different levels of spending that set up complicated negotiations down the road. Work on the 12 annual appropriations bills also kicked into high gear in the House and Senate Appropriations Committees this week. On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee kicked off its work by marking up and passing its versions of the $135 billion FY24 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs spending bill and the Agriculture spending bill. Meanwhile the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies bill appropriates nearly $26 billion in funding, including for such key programs as WIC, SNAP, and Child Nutrition Programs in schools. Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Murray also announced the next markups would occur July 13th, with action set for the Commerce, Justice, Science spending bill, Financial Services and General Government spending bill, and Legislative Branch spending bill.

Meanwhile, the House Appropriations Committee continues to churn through its work, advancing six of the 12 annual spending bills out of full committee as follows: Defense, Agriculture, Homeland Security, Legislative Branch, Energy and Water, and Military Construction-VA, with two additional spending bills marked up in Subcommittee – Financial Services-General Government and State, Foreign Operations. However, as a reminder, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees are currently marking up each of the 12 annual spending bills at very different overall spending figures, with the House Appropriations Committee notably marking up at spending levels below the debt limit agreement and the Senate Appropriations Committee marking up bills at the caps in the debt limit agreement. This is expected to create an almost $100bn discrepancy between them later in the process which will need to be reconciled.

Here’s what else you may have missed this week:

The White House focused on repairing relations with China and strengthening partnership with India. Foreign policy was a top priority for the Biden Administration this week, including a trip by Secretary of State Antony Blinken to meet with his counterparts in China and an official state visit by the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, to Washington. Blinken landed in Beijing on Sunday and began a full day of meetings with the overall goal of reestablishing channels of communication, especially direct military-to-military communication, between the United States and China. The visit came after a number of high-profile incidents raised tensions between the two countries, including the “Chinese Spy Balloon” earlier this year, a visit by then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan last year, China’s incursions into Taiwanese airspace, and the continued human rights abuses of ethnic Uyghurs. After meeting with President Xi Jinping, Blinken declared the visit a success, but then later this week President Biden insinuated that President Xi was a dictator during remarks at a political event – perhaps reversing any progress made during Blinken’s trip.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Modi visited the White House for meetings in the Oval Office and a State Dinner to display the deepening partnership between the United States and India. Modi also addressed a joint session of Congress. This state visit, on the heels of so much attention to relations with China, displays the rebalancing of America’s focus in the Indo-Pacific region. Strategically, continued close engagement of India is consistent with efforts to counter China, even as many observers express concerns regarding Modi’s undermining of democratic principles in India.

Senate HELP Committee Chairman Sanders pursues investigation of Amazon’s warehouse labor practices. The investigation, announced on Tuesday, will focus on working and safety conditions in Amazon warehouses. Sanders has taken numerous shots at large companies since become HELP Committee chairman earlier this year, including Starbucks for their efforts to squash labor unions. In Amazon’s case, Sanders has cited OSHA findings which indicate Amazon warehouses put employees at increased risk of injury from lifting heavy packages, as well as reports from labor groups that the injury rate at Amazon warehouses is double that of other warehouses.

Representative Adam Schiff censured by House Republicans for leading the effort to impeach former President Trump. After an earlier censure resolution failed, House Republicans passed a second resolution censuring Rep. Schiff (D-CA) for the inquiry he conducted in the 117th Congress. The resolution passed on a party line vote on Wednesday, 213-209, with six Republicans voting present. The action came as House Republicans struggled internally to chart a course on other efforts to counter the Biden Administration. Several measures related to investigations and/or impeachment of President Biden were introduced and one measure offering articles of impeachment against President Biden was referred to committees for investigation instead of being considered on the House floor. Divisions about how to proceed on various impeachment measures are expected to play out into the summer and beyond.

The House and Senate begin their State Work Period after today and will be back in session the week of July 10th.

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