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Virginia Sens. Warner, Kaine weigh in on $740 billion defense spending bill

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) still needs appropriation to pay for everything in it.

WASHINGTON — It is considered the must-pass bill for Congress.

And, for the 61st year in a row, lawmakers -- after much debate -- passed the National Defense Authorization Act.

The Senate on Wednesday voted 88-11 to pass the measure.

The $740 billion bill includes $27 billion for shipbuilding, which could buy 13 battle force ships, including two Virginia-class submarines, two additional destroyers, an extra expeditionary fast transport and provide $3.1 billion for the Columbia-class submarine program.

It includes nearly $500 million for 19 military construction projects in Virginia: $88.9 million for Naval Station Norfolk and $24 million for Joint Base Langley-Eustis.

The bill approves 12 more F/A-18 Super Hornets than the administration requested and 85 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

It also provides a pay increase of 2.7% for our nation's service members.

The NDAA overhauls military justice, but stops short of completely removing commanders from sexual assault cases.

The bill doesn't include language requiring women to register with the Selective Service System.

And, it does not repeal the 1991 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force, as Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) had sought.

"But that just means I'm going to have to get a stand-alone vote in the Iraq War repeal, which my leadership has told me I will get," he said.

The overall bill still needs to receive an actual appropriation to pay for everything in it. That could be in jeopardy if lawmakers extend the current Continuing Resolution beyond Feb. 18.

That prospect has Democratic Virginia Sen. Mark Warner worried.

"If you've got a Continuing Resolution, you're still operating off the last Trump budget, and some of the policy changes we've put forward wouldn't be implemented," he said.

In addition to Warner and Kaine supporting the measure in the Senate, all four members of the Hampton Roads House delegation backed it as well.

Those who voted yes include Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Virginia, 1st District), Rep. Elaine Luria (r-Virginia, 2nd District), Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Virginia, 3rd District) and Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Virginia, 4th District).

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