Senate overwhelmingly backs bill to pump $700 billion into military

WASHINGTON — The Senate has overwhelmingly approved a sweeping policy bill that would pump $700 billion into the military, putting the U.S. armed forces on track for a budget greater than at any time during the decade-plus wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Senators passed the legislation by a 89-8 vote Monday. The measure authorizes $700 billion in military spending for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, expands U.S. missile defenses in response to North Korea’s growing hostility and refuses to allow excess military bases to be closed.

The 1,215-page measure defies a number of White House objections, but President Donald Trump hasn’t threatened to veto the measure. The bill helps him honor a pledge to rebuild an American military that he said had become depleted on former President Barack Obama’s watch.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and other national security hawks have insisted the military branches are at risk of losing their edge in combat without a dramatic influx of money to repair shortfalls in training and equipment. Congress’ failure to supply adequate budgets is at least partly responsible for a series of deadly ship collisions and helicopter crashes, according to McCain, the Armed Services Committee chairman.

McCain, who is battling an aggressive type of brain cancer, guided the bill toward passage as he railed against Washington gridlock and political gamesmanship. But he couldn’t quell disputes among his colleagues over several contentious amendments that were blocked from votes and failed to be added to the bill.

Among them was a proposal by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, that would have protected transgender service members from being kicked out of the armed forces. Gillibrand and McCain seek to achieve the same goal through separate legislation they introduced late last week. That bill also is supported by Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the top Democrat on the Armed Services panel.

Approved by the Armed Services Committee by a 27-0 vote in late June, the overall Senate bill provides $640 billion for core Pentagon operations, such as buying weapons and paying troops, and another $60 billion for wartime missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. Trump’s budget request sought $603 billion for basic functions and $65 billion for overseas missions.

With North Korea’s nuclear program a growing threat to the U.S. and its allies, the bill includes $8.5 billion to strengthen U.S. missile and defense…

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