The House on Friday passed 217-198 its annual defense spending bill for fiscal 2025, with appropriators rebuffing intense bipartisan pressure from their colleagues over attack submarine and F-35 fighter jet purchases.

The $833 billion legislation would buy additional F-35s beyond the Pentagon’s budget request while only procuring one Virginia-class attack submarine for FY25 instead of the usual two vessels the bill usually provides.

The procurement plans put the bill at odds with large swaths of lawmakers on the Armed Services Committee who drafted the FY25 National Defense Authorization Act, which would reduce F-35 purchases below the Pentagon’s requested levels and partially fund a second Virginia-class submarine.

“The only way to prevent Chinese aggression is by fielding and operating capability that demonstrate America’s military advantage,” defense appropriations Chairman Ken Calvert, R-Calif., said on the House floor on Thursday. “To this end, the bill increases investments in fifth and sixth generation aircraft, procures deliverable capability, including several [Indo-Pacific Command] unfunded priorities.”

“This bill procures where we can, trains where we must and invest in capabilities that will make our adversaries wake up every day and say ‘today is not the day to provoke the United States of America.”

The spending bill would procure 76 new F-35s, eight more than the 68 requested by the Defense Department. Conversely, the National Defense Authorization Act – which the House passed 217-199 earlier this month – would cut F-35 procurement down to 58 aircraft.

The House Rules Committee, which oversees amendment votes, opted not to hold a vote on a proposed bipartisan amendment that would have reduced F-35 purchases in the spending bill. This prompted a sharp rebuke from Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, amid mounting frustration on Capitol Hill with manufacturer Lockheed Martin.

“At a projected total lifecycle cost of over $2 trillion dollars, the F-35 is the largest program in DoD history despite routinely not meeting cost, schedule, and performance metrics,” Smith said in a Wednesday statement with Rep. Donald Norcross of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the tactical air and land forces panel.

“This is unacceptable program execution and Congress should not reward this behavior by buying additional aircraft above the President’s budget request.”

The spending bill also overrides the Armed Services Committee on Virginia-class submarine procurement for FY25, in addition to the F-35 purchases. Appropriators have sided with the Navy, which requested just one attack submarine purchase for FY25, due to production delays amid industrial base constraints. In contrast, the National Defense Authorization Act sought incremental funding for a second Virginia-class vessel.

“We have to rebuild the industrial base in order for us to build submarines,” Calvert told Defense News earlier this month. “I want more submarines. But in order for us to get there, we have to rebuild the industrial base to get the necessary workforce to build the submarines. So we’re focusing on fixing the problem in order for us to build more submarines.”

The decision comes despite intense pressure from a large, bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Rep. Joe Courtney of Connecticut, the top Democrat on the House’s seapower panel. His Connecticut district includes General Dynamics Electric Boat, which makes the Virginia-class submarines.

Courtney and Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., recently led 131 other House lawmakers in a letter to defense appropriators beseeching them to fund two Virginia-class submarines against the Pentagon’s wishes.

“Preserving a consistent production schedule is essential for shipyard and industrial base stability, and to meet the Navy’s operational requirements,” the lawmakers wrote in a May letter to Calvert and Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., the panel’s top Democrat.

Policy riders: Ukraine and Israel

The spending bill also includes several socially conservative policy riders, such as limits on abortion access for troops and military diversity initiatives, which prompted most Democrats to vote against the bill.

“We need to foster a climate in our military that honors and appreciates all Americans who choose to take the oath to serve,” McCollum said on Thursday. “Unfortunately, at this time, this bill does not reflect that sentiment.”

McCollum also criticized the legislation for omitting $300 million in annual Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative funding that the defense spending bill has provided annually since FY16.

“Failure to continue funding that has long been standing bipartisan support for Ukraine, it sends a terrible signal, and it will only embolden [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” said McCollum.

Still, $300 million is a small trickle compared to the $13.7 billion in the initiative’s funding Congress passed in April as part of a massive foreign aid bill, which included a total $60 billion in economic and security assistance for Ukraine.

The House voted down 308-103 an amendment from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., to cut off all aid to Ukraine. It also struck down 335-76 another Greene amendment to reduce Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s salary to $1 – a provision Republicans adapted last year before stripping it from the final spending bill after negotiations with the Senate.

The House adopted numerous other amendments that would invest more money in various research and development accounts by taking money away from a variety of operations and maintenance programs.

Lastly, the bill bars the Pentagon from using funds “to withhold, halt, reverse or cancel the delivery of defense articles or defense services” for Israel, and forces the president to transfer withheld weapons to the Israeli military within 15 days.

Both the Defense and State department spending bills would ban funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, which delivers humanitarian assistance in the Gaza Strip.

The defense spending bill also includes a provision that would eliminate the military’s makeshift pier off the coast of the Gaza Strip, which has struggled to deliver an adequate level of humanitarian aid to Palestinians facing famine-like conditions.

Bryant Harris is the Congress reporter for Defense News. He has covered U.S. foreign policy, national security, international affairs and politics in Washington since 2014. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Al-Monitor, Al Jazeera English and IPS News.

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