Senate passes defense policy bill void of most GOP culture-war demands

The U.S. Senate has passed an annual defense policy bill that excluded many of the controversial Republican social policy provisions originally proposed in the version released by the House earlier this year.

The annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was approved by a vote of 86-8 by the Senate on Tuesday, June 30. The measure now moves on to the House-Senate conference committee to work out a final version which must then be voted on and approved by both chambers before it is sent to President Obama.

The Republican-controlled House had added dozens of social policy measures to the bill, ranging from overturning the 2011 repeal of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy regarding LGBT military members, to allowing government contractors to discriminate on the basis of religious beliefs.

Ultimately, these measures were stripped from the bill during a procedural vote in the Senate and, as a result, the bill passed in the Senate is far more focused on actual defense-related issues than previously anticipated.

The bill includes an increase in military pay, increased funding for military hardware procurement, a restructuring of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft program, and continued funding for veterans’ healthcare. It also includes $1 billion in new funding for efforts in Iraq and Syria to combat ISIL, and funding for the European Reassurance Initiative, an effort intended to help assuage European allies over the threat of Russian aggression.

Many Democrats have accused the House of taking advantage of the situation by using the NDAA as a means to push through social policy measures they weren’t able to pass separately. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) insists that the bill’s focus on national security should not be lost in the culture wars.

“This is a defense bill,” McConnell says. “Let’s not lose sight of that.”