House NDAA squeaks through; Senate unveils its version

By Andres Picon | 06/14/2024 01:33 PM EDT

The House and Senate advanced versions of the annual defense policy bill with energy and climate provisions.

House NDAA vote.

The House approved its fiscal 2025 National Defense Authorization Act on Friday. House Television

House Republicans passed the annual defense policy bill by a slim margin Friday morning, overcoming a wave of Democratic opposition to the legislation’s attacks on climate policy and other administration priorities.

Meanwhile, the Democratic-controlled Senate Armed Services Committee unveiled the outlines of its own version of the fiscal 2025 National Defense Authorization Act, showcasing a contrast that broadly supports the Pentagon’s actions on clean energy and climate.

The House’s NDAA passed on a 217-199 vote, with six Democrats voting in favor and three Republicans voting against.


“This year’s NDAA will refocus our military on its core mission of defending America and its interests across the globe,” House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said in a statement.

Passage followed several days of amendment votes in which House Republicans approved provisions targeting federal initiatives on LGBTQ health care and diversity and inclusion, as well as a proposal to block Pentagon implementation of federal climate actions.

Those additions soured most Democrats on the legislation and turned what had come out of committee as an overwhelmingly bipartisan bill into a bastion for GOP messaging priorities ahead of the November elections.

“We can do better,” said Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel and co-chair of the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition’s Climate and National Security Task Force.

“The climate crisis is one of our nation’s biggest national security challenges,” Kim said in a statement. “Rolling back climate investments through partisan actions undermines our readiness and puts our nation at greater risk.”

The House this week narrowly approved an amendment from Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) that would bar the Department of Defense from using NDAA funding to implement seven of President Joe Biden’s executive orders on climate change.

Still, for all its controversy, the House bill’s GOP-led provisions are largely symbolic. The Senate plans to vote on its own NDAA this summer, and the two chambers will have to conference their respective bills to reach a compromise before the end of the year.

Further, the House bill passed Friday contains a host of measures backed by both Republicans and Democrats. They include riders to support the military’s efforts to procure critical minerals; embrace nuclear energy; make installations more resilient to extreme weather; and respond to decades of contamination from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.

The fiscal 2025 NDAA authorizes about $884 billion in defense spending for fiscal 2025, abiding by the cap set by last year’s bipartisan debt deal. The total includes roughly $33 billion in discretionary authorizations for the Department of Energy’s national security programs.

New climate, energy provisions

The House on Friday approved a number of amendments on energy and natural resources to add to the host of related provisions already sprinkled throughout the bill.

An amendment from Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) would allow DOD to prioritize procuring recycled and reused critical minerals.

The House passed by voice vote a proposal from Rep. Pete Stauber (R-Minn.) requiring the Pentagon to consult with the Department of the Interior on environmental reviews for projects “that would increase availability of strategic or critical materials for the National Defense Stockpile.”

An amendment from South Carolina Republican Rep. Joe Wilson would bar DOD from buying solar panels from so-called foreign entities of concern.

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) speaks with reporters outside the U.S. Capitol.
Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) introduced several nuclear amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act. | Francis Chung/POLITICO

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), who proposed dozens of amendments aimed at supporting advanced nuclear energy, saw several pass Friday. One would require a report on Chinese and Russian efforts to use transportable nuclear power military and civilian purposes.

Another would encourage DOD to “accept and embrace nuclear energy to achieve a reliable, secure, and resilient energy apparatus” within the military.

A bipartisan coalition led by Michigan Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee secured a messaging amendment in opposition to the potential development of a nuclear waste storage facility adjacent to the Great Lakes.

The House approved an amendment from Hawaii Democratic Rep. Ed Case to direct the Pentagon to evaluate wildfire mitigation and recovery capabilities and deficiencies in Hawaii.

Senate NDAA

The Senate Armed Services Committee wrapped up a 12-hour closed-door markup late Thursday, approving a whopping $912 billion defense policy bill on a 22-3 vote.

That top-line — which, like the House version, includes about $33 billion for DOE’s national security programs — far exceeds the bipartisan debt ceiling agreement.

The roughly $25 billion increase over the enacted level was largely the result of lobbying from ranking member Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) who had been calling for a significant boost to defense spending.

Committee Chair Jack Reed (D-R.I.) voted against the measure despite favoring higher defense spending because it would send the message to appropriators that defense spending needed to surpass the level laid out in the debt deal, a committee staffer told reporters Friday.

Reed had expressed concerns that higher appropriations would trigger automatic spending cuts under that bipartisan agreement, which could harm the military and other sectors of the government. The aide said Reed will still support the bill going forward.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Ranking Member Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) confer during a hearing.
Senate Armed Services Chair Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and ranking member Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) confer during a hearing on Capitol Hill. | Francis Chung/POLITICO

Part of the funding increase comes from approximately $12.5 billion in emergency spending that senators included to support disaster relief in Guam. Typhoon Mawar destroyed infrastructure on military bases there last year.

The bill would authorize $7 billion for DOE’s defense environmental cleanup activities. It also increases funding for DOD’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration program.

It would require a briefing on risks to installations and infrastructure in the face of flooding and other natural disasters, as well as a separate report on the military’s efforts to support installation resilience “through the scaling and adaptation of the DOD Climate Assessment Tool.”

It would boost funding for an array of PFAS-cleanup efforts and an ongoing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assessment of the health impacts of PFAS.

Lawmakers included a $150 million authorization for DOE’s nuclear energy activities. They also inserted a provision requiring DOE to identify two to four potential sites for a “modular, scalable uranium enrichment facility” before 2027.