Military slated for big pay bump under House version of NDAA

The House of Representatives passed a massive $696 billion Defense Authorization bill Friday—which includes a 2.4 percent pay raise for members of the military, the largest raise for military personnel since a 3.4 percent increase in 2010.

While increased military spending was a staple of President Donald Trump’s campaign last year, the House version goes even farther than the $603 billion in funding and 2.1 percent pay bump requested in the administration’s 2018 budget proposal.

Representative Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), sponsor of the bill and chair of the House Armed Services Committee, placed the pay increase in the larger context of boosting military readiness.

“This bill take the necessary steps to begin to rebuild and reform our military, including billions in additional funds to begin to close the dangerous readiness gap our troops are facing,” Thornberry said in a release after the bill’s passage. “In addition, it gives our troops the biggest pay raise in eight years, which they are entitled to under the law.”

The bill, which passed easily in a 344-81 vote, also blows past sequestration spending limits imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011. The bill has yet to pass the Senate, and it is believed that in order to become law, Congress will need to repeal at least the military side of sequestration.

At the beginning of the year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnnell (R-Ky.) hinted that Congress might move forward on a partial repeal in order to clear the path for deeper defense spending.

“I think there is a desire to increase defense spending,” McConnell told the Washington Examiner in February. “And exactly how that is done compared to the domestic side and to the Budget Control Act is under discussion.”

In order to repeal, McConnell and congressional Republicans likely will need to strike a deal with Senate Democrats to avoid a filibuster. While congressional Democrats have indicated that they are open to lifting the defense spending caps, most have pledged to do so only if the cap on domestic spending is also eliminated.

Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said after the bill’s passage that the domestic side of the budget “does matter” and is connected to the debate over the budget and lifting sequestration.

“The President’s budget contains a $54 billion plus-up defense and a $54 billion cut from non-defense discretionary spending. So don’t tell me one thing doesn’t have anything to do with the other,” said Smith, adding “We have incredible infrastructure needs” that are “connected, just like national defense is, to the strength of this country.”

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