By KEVIN FREKING
WASHINGTON (AP) — A bill to rescind the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for members of the U.S. military and provide nearly $858 billion for national defense has passed the Senate and now goes to President Joe Biden to be signed into law. The bill approved Thursday night authorizes about $45 billion more for defense programs than Biden requested and roughly 10% more than last year’s bill. Lawmakers are trying to account for inflation and boost the nation’s military competitiveness with China and Russia. It includes a 4.6% pay raise for servicemembers and the Defense Department’s civilian workforce.