US House approves defense policy bill with divisive provision on abortion, transgender troops

The U.S. Capitol building in Washington

By Mike Stone and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. House Of Representatives on Friday passed its version of the annual defense policy bill that included measures taking aim at abortion rights and treatment of transgender service members, divisive social issues which threaten to derail the must-pass legislation.

The Senate Armed Services Committee will now work with the House to form a compromise version of the fiscal 2025 National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA.

This year's House version of the bill, an annual measure that sets policy for the Department of Defense, authorizes a record $895 billion in spending, a 1% increase over last year.

The sprawling legislation was approved in the House by a vote of 217-199, with six Democrats in support and three Republicans voting no.

Senate Democrats are unlikely to go along with the conservative social issue provisions inserted into the measure.

The Senate's version of the bill, a summary of which was unveiled Friday, includes a $25 billion dollar increase to the national defense budget bringing the new top line to more than $920 billion. "We're going to work through this just like we always have," a Senate aide told reporters as its version of the bill was unveiled. The aide said the Senate version, which will be made public in the coming weeks, did not have any provision addressing abortion, setting up the process through which the two sides reach compromise on final language. The Senate version seeks to add $12.5 billion for disaster relief for the island of Guam. Guam is viewed as a key Pacific Ocean site from which U.S. forces could deter China. While the Senate did not seek to increase the number of Lockheed Martin made F-35 jets, it did seek to add six F-15EX's made by Boeing, $4 billion for munitions and an increase to the submarine budget of $480 million - enough of an increase to fund a second Virginia Class submarine made by Huntington Ingalls Industries and General Dynamics. Republicans narrowly control the House with a 218-213 majority. Democrats control the Senate 51-49.

(Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington; Editing by Caitlin Webber and Andrea Ricci)