The Senate on Tuesday passed a major defense policy bill free from divisive culture-war amendments, shrugging off demands from the chamber’s Republican majority to strip Democrats of longstanding legislative victories on LGBT and abortion rights.
The 87-10 vote for the National Defense Authorization Act may appear striking in an otherwise gridlocked Congress. It came despite months of talks between Republicans and Democrats over a number of deeply contentious social issues.
While social conservatives in Congress had sought to repeal a military nondiscrimination policy aiming to advance LGBT equality in the armed forces and reverse a decades-old ban on abortions at military health facilities, the legislation instead maintained the status quo and offered new protections for religious expression.
Meanwhile, it provided a $13.1 billion increase for the Defense Department above the current $628.4 billion baseline — the largest such increase in a decade. The legislation also included a 3 percent pay raise for military personnel, the highest since 2010.
The omission of poison pills blocking Democrats’ social agenda mirrored a strategy of Senate Republicans, who tried to clear the bill and avoid potentially embarrassing votes on LGBT equality and abortion issues that divide the GOP.