Senate Backs Defense Bill With 1 Percent Pay Raise for Troops

Defense Department file photo

The Senate on Thursday approved legislation that ensures troops will receive a 1 percent pay in 2014, moving the measure to the White House, where it is expected to swiftly receive President Obama’s signature.

The 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes a range of military spending, received Obama’s endorsement Thursday. The president commended Congress for its bipartisan work to pass the legislation before the end of the year.

“The bill will, among other things, assist the armed forces in operating in unconventional and irregular warfare and countering unconventional threats, support capacity building efforts with foreign military forces, and support contingency or stability operations,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said. Carney praised specific compromises in the legislation, including flexibility to transfer detainees currently held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to other military stations abroad and strengthened protections for victims of sexual assault.

With the Defense Department’s authority to offer different types of incentive pay and bonuses to current and prospective military members set to expire on Dec. 31, lawmakers scrambled to come up with a plan to fast-track the legislation. The leaders of the Senate and House Armed Services committees earlier this month agreed to pass identical bills authorizing fiscal 2014 funds for the department to expedite the legislative process.

On Thursday, however, Republicans denied Democrats the ability to expedite the bill’s passage, citing the majority party’s recent abolition of the 60-vote threshold needed to confirm executive branch nominees. This required the Senate to wait 30 hours after it voted to end debate on Wednesday for a final vote, meaning the final vote did not occur until after 11 p.m. Thursday night. Ultimately, the billed passed easily on an 84-15 vote.

The legislation also extends the department’s authority to provide special pay and bonuses to troops, including housing allowances, combat pay, enlistment and re-enlistment bonuses, and incentives for foreign language skills. It authorizes $552.1 billion in spending for national defense in fiscal 2014, and an additional $80.7 billion for overseas contingency operations.

The House overwhelmingly passed the bill last week before heading home for the year.

Kellie Lunney contributed to this report.

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