House adopts massive defense bill, sees changes under Trump

U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump speaks at event at Carrier HVAC plant in Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S., December 1, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Bergin

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives passed a defense policy bill on Friday without some controversial provisions that had worried Democrats, but Republican lawmakers said they expect to revisit the issues once Republican Donald Trump is in the White House.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed by 375-34, sending it to the U.S. Senate, which is expected to vote next week on the $618.7 billion measure setting policy for the Pentagon.

After months of negotiation, the House and Senate Armed Services committees unveiled a compromise version of the NDAA this week that did not include provisions such as the Russell Amendment, a “religious freedom” measure that Democrats said would have let federal contractors discriminate against workers on the basis of gender or sexual orientation, overturning an executive order by Democratic President Barack Obama.

During debate before Friday’s vote, some Republicans said they wanted to revisit the issue. Republicans will control both houses of Congress and the White House after Trump is sworn in on Jan. 20.

“We look forward to working directly with the incoming administration to address the concerns, not just for the DoD. (Department of Defense), but for the government nationwide,” said Republican Representative Mac Thornberry, the House Armed Services Committee chairman.

The NDAA also includes $3.2 billion more for the Pentagon than Obama requested in his budget bill. Some Democrats objected to the increase, part of a continuing debate between the two parties over whether defense spending should be matched by non-defense spending.

Thornberry also said he hoped the Trump administration would send Congress a supplemental budget request to provide even more money for the Pentagon.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Jonathan Oatis