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House narrowly passes NDAA with conservative amendments

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaks at a press conference about COVID-19 and China. (Michael Brochstein/Zuma Wire/TNS)
July 15, 2023

In a nail-biting political showdown in the House of Representatives, the National Defense Authorization Act narrowly gained approval on Friday, after House Republicans introduced amendments regarding abortion and transgender surgeries.

The bill, passing 219-210, has created a starkly divided narrative between Republicans and Democrats, pitting the urgent need for national security against party ideologies.

Among the dissenters to the bill were four Republicans: Reps. Ken Buck of Colorado, Andy Biggs and Eli Crane of Arizona, and Thomas Massie of Kentucky. On the opposite side, four Democrats crossed party lines to vote in favor of the bill: Reps. Donald Davis of North Carolina, Jared Golden of Maine, Marie Gluesenkamp Perez of Washington, and Gabe Vasquez of New Mexico.

According to NBC News, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) initially announced her opposition to the bill, but voted Friday in favor of the bill. Greene stated that a commitment from Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to secure her a seat on the committee reconciling the House and Senate versions of the bill influenced her decision.

Greene aims to argue against additional funding for Ukraine as part of the reconciling committee, recommending it should be a separate supplemental funding package.

READ MORE: Next year’s defense dollars: 5.2% pay increase, 10 new warships and more on the table

McCarthy celebrated the bill’s approval Friday, highlighting its intent to trim “radical programs” hampering U.S. troop readiness and to boost investment in advanced technology. He issued a stark criticism towards Democrats, accusing them of enforcing “woke-ism” at the expense of the military’s efficiency.

Republican Study Committee Chair Kevin Hern (R-Okla.), who is the leader of the House’s largest conservative bloc., stated, “Under this NDAA, our military’s primary focus will be combating threats from nations like China, Russia and Iran — exactly what it should be.” 

In response to the bill, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) criticized Republicans for using the National Defense Authorization Act as a tool to enforce “extreme right-wing ideology.”

The amendments introduced to the legislation include measures to prevent the Department of Defense from covering abortion-related expenses, as well as transgender surgeries and hormone treatments for service members.

Additionally, the final two amendments adopted by the House aim to prevent the utilization of federal funds for racial or ethnic quotas in military academy admissions and to prohibit the Defense Department from executing President Biden’s climate change executive orders.

With the Senate yet to pass their version of the defense bill, the political battle over the National Defense Authorization Act is far from over. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) is expected to propose a similar amendment barring Pentagon payments for abortion services, a move Senate Democrats are expected to oppose.

Meanwhile, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Scott Perry (R-Pa.) has pledged no compromise from his members, reiterating their position that the military “is not the place for a social experiment.”

Despite this political rancor, the essential nature of the defense policy bill remains clear. It will be vital to navigate these ideologically charged waters without compromising the fundamental purpose of the legislation: ensuring the robustness of the U.S. military and national security. As the political stage is set for further discussions, the stakes remain high for both the nation’s security and its deeply held values.

This news article was partially created with the assistance of artificial intelligence and edited and fact-checked by a human editor.