But Democratic leaders trumpeted the bill for what it did contain: a White House-approved measure that would extend 12 weeks of paid parental leave to civilian federal employees, a 3 percent pay raise for troops and the end to a Defense Department policy known as the widow’s tax, which prevents the surviving family members of military personnel from receiving their full benefits.
Representative Adam Smith, Democrat of Washington and the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, issued a scathing defense of the bill on Wednesday, calling it “the most progressive defense bill we have passed in decades.”
“Throughout the negotiations I failed in one way: I was unable to turn President Trump, Leader McConnell and Chairman Inhofe into Democrats and convince them to suddenly accept all of the provisions they despise,” he said in the statement, referring to Senators Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, and James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Mr. Smith led the final stages of the negotiations off Capitol Hill and bargained directly with Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, according to three officials familiar with the private talks who insisted on anonymity to describe them. Mr. Smith declined on Wednesday to comment on Mr. Kushner’s role or the broader negotiations.
Most of the provisions in the compromise bill had already been finalized by the time discussions reached him. But it was Mr. Kushner who helped broker a deal to create the Space Force, a chief priority of the president’s, in exchange for the paid parental leave, a measure championed by his wife, Ivanka Trump, also a senior adviser to the president.
“In the case of the White House, they wanted both,” said Senator Kevin Cramer, a North Dakota Republican and key ally of Mr. Trump’s who sits on the Armed Services Committee and has been a vocal backer of Space Force. “At the end of the day, the president gets two victories.”
Mr. Trump appeared to regard the deal with a measure of amazement on Wednesday before the vote. “Wow! All of our priorities have made it into the final NDAA,” he wrote on Twitter, using an acronym for the National Defense Authorization Act.