House OKs Defense Bill With Eyebrow- Raising Extras

Add-ons in annual legislation include restrictions on abortion, transgender health care, diversity training
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 14, 2023 12:19 PM CDT
House OKs Defense Bill With Eyebrow- Raising Extras
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy speaks during a news conference after the House approved an annual defense bill on Friday on Capitol Hill in Washington.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The US House on Friday approved a sweeping annual defense bill that provides an expected 5.2% pay raise for service members but strays from traditional military policy with political add-ons from Republicans to block abortion coverage, diversity initiatives at the Pentagon, and transgender issues that deeply divided the chamber. Democrats voted against the package, which had sailed out of the House Armed Services Committee on an almost unanimous vote just weeks ago, but was being loaded up with the Republican priorities during a heated late-night floor debate heading into Friday's session. The final vote was 219-210, with four Democrats voting with the GOP, and four Republicans opposed, per the AP. The bill is expected to go nowhere in the Democratic-majority Senate.

The defense bill authorizes $874.2 billion in the coming year for the defense spending, keeping with President Biden's budget request. The funding itself is to be allocated later, when Congress handles the appropriation bills, as is the normal process. Efforts to halt US funding for Ukraine in the war against Russia were turned back, but Republicans tacked on provisions to stem the Defense Department diversity initiatives and to restrict access to abortions. The abortion issue has been championed by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., who is singularly stalling Senate confirmation of military officers, including the new commandant of the Marine Corps. Several others measures to roll back the Pentagon's diversity and inclusion measures and block some medical care for transgender personnel were also approved and tacked onto the package.

A particularly tense moment took place during a debate over an amendment from Rep. Eli Crane, R-Ariz.—one that would prevent the Defense Department from requiring participation in race-based training—when Crane used the pejorative phrase "colored people" for Black Americans. Democrats said they were voting against the bill, noting some in the GOP had "chosen to hijack the historically bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act to continue attacking reproductive freedom and jamming their right-wing ideology down the throats of the American people," per a statement from Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Whip Katherine Clark, and Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar. The Senate, meanwhile, is preparing its own version. Democrats have the majority but will need to build a bipartisan bill with Republicans to ensure passage in that chamber.

(More House of Representatives stories.)

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