The GOP-led House successfully passed a defense bill Friday loaded with conservative policy amendments that neither congressional Democrats nor the White House likes.
This year’s National Defense Authorization Act contains a “measure that would eliminate all Pentagon DEI programs and personnel,” according to CNN.
It also contains another measure that “would prohibit the secretary of defense from paying for or reimbursing expenses relating to abortion services.”
There’s also a measure “that would bar a health care program for service members from covering hormone treatments for transgender individuals and gender confirmation surgeries,” and a measure “to block military schools from purchasing or having ‘pornographic and radical gender ideology books’ in their libraries.”
And, of course, like every annual NDAA bill, this year’s bill gives America’s military service members a raise.
All this has made for a bill that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is extremely proud of:
House Republicans just gave our troops their biggest pay raise in decades. 98% of Democrats voted against it. https://t.co/H8oKC0eCww
— Kevin McCarthy (@SpeakerMcCarthy) July 14, 2023
But all this also made for a bill Democrats loathe, particularly the Democrats in the White House.
“Holding America’s military readiness — as well as service members and their families — hostage to an extreme, divisive political agenda undermines our national security and disrespects the sacrifices that those who wear the uniform,” White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said in a statement.
“That’s what House Republicans, Senator Tuberville, and Senate Republicans who refuse to challenge him are doing by hijacking a bipartisan bill and devolving it into a hardcore rightwing wishlist,” he added.
Bates went on to say that President Joe Biden “stands with the overwhelming majority of the American people who believe our military capabilities should never be endangered, especially not in furtherance of radical agendas meant to tear Americans apart for political gain.”
White House reacts to House passed NDAA by saying GOP lawmakers are “holding America’s military readiness – as well as service members and their families – hostage.”
— Philip Melanchthon Wegmann (@PhilipWegmann) July 15, 2023
Notice how he mentioned Sen. Tommy Tuberville. The Alabama senator has been in the news for the past month or so for blocking military promotions so long as the Pentagon keeps paying for servicemembers to travel across state lines to get an abortion.
As noted earlier, this year NDAA includes a measure barring the Pentagon from reimbursing service members for their abortion travel. Congressional Democrats were particularly peeved by this measure.
“This is an insult to all who serve – particularly women – in uniform. They’re being told your service and willingness to risk your life – we don’t care. You don’t get health care services. You don’t get reproductive health care services. This is un-American,” Rep. Pat Ryan said, according to Fox News.
“If Republicans insist that it [the abortion measure] has to be in it, then we will not have (a defense policy bill) this year. If by some unbelievable miracle the Senate allowed that to go through, Biden would veto it,” Rep. Adam Smith, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, added.
Thanks to Democrats’ staunch opposition to the bill, it passed on mainly partisan lines, with only four Democrats crossing the aisle to vote with Republicans.
Four Republicans likewise voted against the bill. Not included among them was Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. Originally, Greene was expected to vote “no” on the bill, but she reportedly changed her mind at the last minute after winning a personal concession:
MTG, who was a NO last night on defense bill, just told us that Speaker McCarthy gave her a spot on the House-Senate conference committee — which is why she voted for the bill
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) July 14, 2023
The bad news is that Republicans may not be able to get the NDAA through the Senate.
“[T]his version of the bill is headed directly for the ‘Senate buzz saw’: Democrats control the Senate, and they’re not likely to OK provisions that block Pentagon diversity programs and bar military installations from flying the LGBTQ pride flag,” according to Politico.
Plus, the Senate has reportedly drawn up a “less hot-button version of the bill” that “has so far landed bipartisan support in committee,” meaning in other words that some Senate Republicans have already sold out instead of standing strong.
The @RepJimBanks amendment to strip DEI considerations out of military recruitment and promotions in favor of a wholly merit based system made it into the NDAA.
Senate Republicans must stand strong and not buckle to Dem demands to remove it from the Senate version of the bill. pic.twitter.com/Zq9KjJcuPN
— Andrew Surabian (@Surabees) July 14, 2023
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