House GOP pushes defense bill restricting access to abortion, upholding diversity efforts

(Patrick Semansky/Associated Press)

House GOP pushes defense bill restricting access to abortion, upholding diversity efforts


July 14, 2023

The House on Friday passed a sweeping defense bill that provides for an expected 5.2% pay increase for military personnel, but deviates from traditional military policy with the Republicans


add-ons that blocked coverage of abortion, diversity initiatives at the Pentagon, and transgender care that deeply divided the room.

Democrats voted against the package, which passed by a near-unanimous vote weeks ago from the House Armed Services Committee before being loaded with GOP priorities during a heated nighttime floor debate this week.

The final vote was 219-210, with four Democrats siding with the GOP and four Republicans against. The bill, as written, is expected to go nowhere in the Senate with a Democratic majority.

Attempts to cut US funding for Ukraine in its war against Russia were reversed, but Republicans added provisions to halt the Defense Department’s diversity initiatives and limit access to abortions. The abortion issue has been championed by Senator Tommy Tuberville




which remarkably withholds Senate confirmation of military officers, including the new Marine Corps commander.

We continue to block the Biden administration’s waking agenda, Representative Lauren Boebert said


(R color.).

Turning the must-pass defense law into a partisan battlefield shows how deeply the country’s military has been unexpectedly drawn into disputes over race, equality and women’s health

make sure they are


steering the priorities of the Republican Party in America’s widening national divide.

During a particularly tense moment in the debate, Democratic Representative Joyce Beatty of Ohio, a former president of the Congressional Black Caucus, spoke about how difficult it was to see across the aisle as Republicans advocated gains for women, black people, and blowing others away in the army.

You’re getting in our way, she said of an amendment from Rep. Eli Crane (R-Ariz.) that would prevent the Department of Defense from requiring participation in race-based training for hiring, promotions or retention.

Crane argued that Russia and China do not mandate diversity measures in their military operations and neither should the United States. We don’t want our military to become a social experiment, he said. We want the best of the best.

When Crane used the pejorative expression of colored people for black military personnel, Beatty asked that his words be knitted from the plate.

Fridays spelled out a tumultuous week for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy

(R-Bakersfield), R-California,

as conservatives essentially set the agenda and forced their peers to consider their ideas for the annual bill that has been unfailingly passed by Congress since World War II.

I think he’s doing a great job because we’re going through it, it was over 1,500 amendments and we were going through it, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene said


(R-Ga.). She told reporters she changed her mind about supporting the bill after McCarthy offered her a seat on the committee that will negotiate the final draft with the Senate.

Democrats said in a joint leadership statement they voted against the bill because Republicans turned what should be a meaningful investment in our men and women in uniform into an extreme and reckless legislative joyride.”

Extreme MAGA Republicans have chosen to hijack the historically bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act to attack reproductive freedom and force their right-wing ideology down the throats of the American people, Reps’ statement said. Hakeem Jeffries from New York, Katherine Clark from Massachusetts and Pete Aguilar from


Defense bill authorizes $874.2 billion for defense spending next year, in line with president


Biden’s budget request. The funding itself will be allocated later, when Congress deals with the appropriations bills, as is the normal process.

The package sets policy for the Department of Defense, as well as aspects of the Department of Energy, focusing this year in particular on US attitudes toward China, Russia and other national security fronts.

Republican opposition to US support for the war in Ukraine brought a number of amendments, including one to block the use of cluster munitions that Biden just sent to help Ukraine fight Russia. It was a controversial move because the weapons, which can leave unexploded ordnance that could endanger civilians, have been banned by many other countries.

Most of those attempts to end U.S. aid to Ukraine failed. Proposals to reverse the Pentagon’s diversity and inclusion measures and block certain medical care for transgender personnel were approved.

GOP Representative Ronny Jackson of Texas, who served as a White House physician, pushed forward the abortion bill that would prohibit the Secretary of Defense from paying or refunding costs related to abortion services.

Jackson and other Republicans praised Tuberville for his stance against the Pentagon’s abortion policy, which came to the fore when states began banning the procedure following the Supreme Court’s decision last summer that the historic Roe v.


. Wade law.

Now he has support, he’s back in the house again, Jackson said.

But it’s not at all certain that the House position will hold if the legislation goes to the Senate, which prepares its own version of the bill. Senate Democrats have the majority, but will have to work with Republicans on a bipartisan measure to ensure enough support to advance to their chambers.

McCarthy praised the House for scrapping radical programs that he said distracted from the military’s purpose.

Democratic members of the House Armed Services Committee, led by Rep. Adam Smith of Washington State dropped their support because of the social policy changes.

Smith, who is white, tried to explain to Crane and other colleagues why the Pentagon’s diversity initiatives were important in America, drawing on his own experience as a businessman trying to reach beyond his own circle of contacts to hire and gain a deeper understanding of other people.

Smith lamented that the bill passed by the committee overwhelmingly “no longer exists. What was once an example of compromise and a functioning government has become an ode to bigotry and ignorance.

___Associated Press writers Farnoush Amiri, Stephen Groves, and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.


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