Dec. 11 (UPI) — The House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to pass the annual defense spending bill, authorizing the creation of Space Force and passing a provision that provides all federal workers with 12 weeks paid parental leave.
House Democrats pushed for the paid federal leave provision in exchange for the elevation of Air Force Space Command to its own branch of the military.
President Donald Trump, who ordered the creation of the Space Force in February, negotiated with Democrats to fund the sixth branch of the military in exchange for the parental leave. Republicans objected to the paid leave, which is expected to cost the government $ 3.3 billion over five to 10 years.
The bill passed the House in a 377-48 vote, with 41 Democrats and six Republicans opposing it, along with Rep. Justin Amash, of Michigan, who became an independent in July after being a member of the Republican Party. The bill authorizes $ 738 billion for defense spending — $ 22 billion more than last year. It will go before the Senate next week.
The Democrats who opposed the bill criticized their party for yielding too much in negotiations with the Republican-led Senate.
“This defense budget is $ 120 billion more than what President [Barack] Obama left us with. That could fund free public college for every American. It could fund access to high-speed affordable Internet for every American,” said Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif.
The Space Force provision doesn’t add new personnel, but instead draws from existing personnel already doing space-related work.
“We’ve done a good job on our space activity. One of the problems we’ve faced with our allies is that both Russia and China had a space force, but we didn’t have one, because we had the Navy and the Air Force,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “They were working very well together, but there could be better coordination. That’s primarily what it is.”
The bill also includes a 3.1 percent pay raise for military personnel, $ 5.3 billion for disaster recovery on military installations, repeals regulations that penalize some Gold Star families collecting benefits from the government and introduces reforms to private military housing.
An earlier draft of the House bill would have blocked Trump from dipping into Defense Department funds for the border wall after he used $ 6.1 billion in Pentagon funds, but the version that passed referred that question to the appropriations process.