Congress clears defense bill for Obama

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Congress is sending President Barack Obama a defense policy bill that seeks to give Republicans the final word on key national security issues. The bill rebuffs his attempts to shutter the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and reduce the size of armed forces.

The Senate easily passed the defense legislation Thursday on a vote of 92-7, one week after the House overwhelmingly approved the bill.

The defense bill authorizes $611 billion to run the military in 2017.

The legislation bars the Pentagon from trimming the military’s sprawling constellation of bases and facilities, even though senior U.S. defense officials say there is excess capacity.

The bill blocks the Pentagon’s planned reductions in the number of active-duty troops by prohibiting the Army from falling below 476,000 soldiers – 16,000 more than Obama’s defense budget proposed.

Alabama Senator Richard Shelby issued the following statement Thursday afternoon after the bill passed:

I believe that one of Congress’ most important responsibilities is to ensure that our military is equipped to defend our nation both at home and abroad.  While this bill is not perfect, the NDAA supports our men and women in uniform with the resources that they need and addresses the Obama Administration’s dangerous underfunding of our military.  This legislation also gives our troops the largest pay increase in six years and makes much-needed improvements to our military health care system.  I’m proud to support the NDAA to ensure that we have a highly trained, well-equipped, and properly funded military to protect us.”

Florida Senator Marco Rubio also issued a statement following the passing of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act:

America faces a growing number of threats around the world, and in recent years our military has been asked to do more overseas to keep us safe here at home. At the same time, our armed forces have been deprived of an adequate, long-term budget and subjected to damaging sequestration. As a consequence, our troops are suffering from readiness shortfalls and a growing procurement gap. We must ensure our men and women in uniform have the tools and resources they need to defend our nation, and that the incoming administration is able to restore our military capabilities to the level required to confront the many challenges ahead.

The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act provides for our national defense and gives critical policy guidance to the Pentagon. For years, I’ve been pushing for our troops to get a well-deserved pay raise, and I’m pleased this bill provides them with the largest increase in six years. It also ensures Florida’s many military bases have the construction authorities they need, reverses the drawdown in troops requested by the president, and keeps in place the ban on bringing terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay to American soil.”

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