The House version of the 2013 Defense Authorization bill eases export restrictions on commercial satellites, mandates F-16 sales to Taiwan and shows that the chamber is determined to exempt U.S. defense spending from budget constraints.

The House bill, passed May 18, 299-120, adopted a sequester workaround for defense spending. The amendment from Scott Rigell (R-Va.) would pay for defense spending with cuts elsewhere in the federal budget, as defined by the House’s budget resolution, and would exempt defense spending from any so-called sequestration cuts. The House also rejected an amendment to cut the bill $8 billion to meet spending caps mandated by the Budget Control Act (BCA).

Adam Smith (D-Wash.), House Armed Services committee ranking member, said he was concerned that the bill exceeded BCA limits. “Congress made a commitment to get our budget under control,” he says, “and I fully expect that the Senate will honor the Budget Control Act number.”

The House turned back amendments to kill the F-35B and the V-22 Osprey, delay the Long Range Bomber 10 years and cut $403 million from Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD).

Commercial satellites and their components currently fall under the U.S. Munitions List, with its tighter export restrictions. The bill would place them under the more flexible Commerce-Control list, making export easier. Industry groups have long sought the change. The Aerospace Industries Association, for example, estimates that the restrictions cost U.S. manufacturers $21 billion in lost satellite sales from 1999 to 2009.

Howard Berman (D-Calif.), ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has been pushing hard for the change. The Obama administration last month announced its proposal to ease restrictions.

Speaking for the amendment in debate May 17, Berman said it still supports national security interests. “It includes a strict prohibition on any satellite exports to China — the original concern that caused Congress to transfer all satellites to the Munitions List — and to Iran, North Korea, Syria, Sudan, and Cuba.”

The Taiwan fighter sale amendment, from Kay Granger (R-Texas), mandates the sale of 66 F-16C/D aircraft.

House authorizers would add $1.7 billion to procurement and $979 million to research. House appropriators sent their committee bill May 17 to the full House, increasing procurement $5.3 billion and research by $576 million.