US House passes $768bn defense bill in bipartisan vote despite progressive criticism – live

US House passes $768bn defense bill in bipartisan vote despite progressive criticism – live
© Photograph: Bryan Dozier/REX/Shutterstock The US Capitol in Washington DC on 7 November 2021.

LIVE – Updated at 14:57

Bill includes pay raise for troops and overhaul of military justice system aimed at combating sexual assault.

 

14:57

A group of senators held a press conference this morning to voice their criticism of the overhaul of the military justice system included in the House-passed version of the National Defense Authorization Act.

Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who has been pushing for an overhaul for years, argued the House’s proposal would not deliver justice for sexual assault survivors in the military.

Republican Senator Joni Ernst, a military veteran and a sexual assault survivor, said she was “disappointed” in the efforts to change Gillibrand’s original proposal and called for a standalone vote on that measure.

Under Gillibrand’s bill, the prosecution of serious crimes, including sexual assault, would be entirely removed from the chain of command. Under the House-passed approval, military commanders would still conduct the trials.

“As someone who’s been a prosecutor, it makes no sense,” Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal said of the House proposal.

 

14:57

The House-passed version of the defense bill includes an overhaul of the military justice system aimed at combating sexual assault against service members.

The final version of the bill calls for the appointment of special prosecutors outside the chain of command to handle the prosecution of sexual assault, murder and kidnapping, among other crimes.

However, the new system would still allow military commanders to conduct the trials and choose jury members, a provision that sparked fierce criticism from advocates.

Four men behind closed doors gutted our landmark military justice reform bill in the NDAA — ignoring the calls of survivors, service members, and veterans. Enough is enough. Our bill has the support of a majority of Congress. I’m calling for a full floor vote to #PassMJIIPA.

— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) December 7, 2021

Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who has pushed for an overhaul of the military justice system for years, argued the proposal was grossly insufficient and pledged to keep fighting for further change.

“As sexual assault survivor advocates warned would happen for months, House and Senate Armed Services leadership have gutted our bipartisan military justice reforms behind closed doors, doing a disservice to our service members and our democracy,” Gillibrand said in a statement.

“This bill represents a major setback on behalf of service members, women and survivors in particular. However, we will not stop seeking true military justice reforms for our brave service members and I will continue to call for an up or down floor vote.”

House passes $768bn defense bill in bipartisan vote, despite progressive criticism

14:57

Greetings from Washington, live blog readers.

The House passed a $768bn defense bill last night, in a vote of 363-70, with 169 Democrats and 194 Republicans backing the compromise measure.

The National Defense Authorization Act includes a 2.7% pay raise for troops, an overhaul of the military justice system aimed at combating sexual assault and a $25bn bump in spending over what Joe Biden had requested.

Some progressives, who had hoped to curb military spending now that Democrats control both chambers of Congress and the White House, complained about the higher price tag of the bill.

“It is astounding how quickly Congress moves weapons but we can’t ensure housing, care, and justice for our veterans, nor invest in robust jobs programs for districts like mine,” congressman Jamaal Bowman said.

$770 Billion to the Pentagon just easily passed the house 363-70.

I voted No.

It is astounding how quickly Congress moves weapons but we can’t ensure housing, care, and justice for our veterans, nor invest in robust jobs programs for districts like mine.

— Congressman Jamaal Bowman (@RepBowman) December 8, 2021

But Democratic leaders defended the final version of the bill, arguing it will help ensure America’s military readiness in a rapidly changing world.

“The House, under the leadership of Chairman Adam Smith, has passed a strong, bipartisan defense bill that will keep America safe, defend our servicemembers and their families and advance our nation’s leadership in the world,” House speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

“As the House sends this legislation to the Senate, we will continue to deliver results for the people.”

The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

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