WASHINGTON — The House on Thursday approved a $716 billion defense policy bill that would give the military a 2.6 percent pay hike, the largest in nine years.
The compromise bill weakens a bid to clamp down on the Chinese telecom giant ZTE and allows the president to waive sanctions against countries that have bought Russian weapons but now want to buy U.S. military equipment.
May also interest you: Report: China, Russia and Iran ramp up economic spying on US
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sought the waiver, saying it would help countries such as India that are seeking to "pull away from the Russian orbit."
The waiver would not benefit Russia, Mattis said in a letter to Congress: "It will only benefit the U.S. and countries willing to pursue a security relationship with us," including Vietnam and Indonesia.
The bill does not fund President Donald Trump's request for a new "Space Force" as an independent military service branch, but authorizes a military parade Trump wants in Washington in November.
The bill was negotiated by House and Senate lawmakers after competing versions were approved in each chamber. It was approved, 359-54, and now goes to the Senate.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders applauded the bill's passage and urged swift passage in the Senate.
The bill "supports the president's request for a pay raise for our troops and rebuilds the military to deter adversaries and maintain the administration's posture of peace through strength," she said.
Lawmakers from both parties have expressed outrage that the revised legislation guts a provision to reinstate penalties against ZTE and restrict the Chinese company's ability to buy U.S. component parts. ZTE was almost forced out of business after being accused of selling sensitive information to nations hostile to the U.S., namely Iran and North Korea, in violation of trade laws.
Trump warned in May that the ban was causing heavy job losses in China and said he had discussed the matter with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The Commerce Department reached a deal with ZTE to lift the ban in June, allowing business with U.S. companies to resume.