House Passes Sweeping Defense Policy Bill Amid Controversy on Abortion and Transgender Health

House Passes Defense Bill Amidst Controversial Amendments

In a late-night session on Thursday, the House of Representatives passed a comprehensive defense policy bill known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bill sets the agenda for defense policy and authorizes funding for the Department of Defense. It includes important provisions to counter China’s influence, improve military readiness, and promote technological innovation.

However, the passage of the bill was not without controversy. Conservative hardliners managed to push through several contentious amendments, sparking outrage from Democrats and some moderate Republicans. These amendments touched on hot-button social issues such as abortion policy, transgender healthcare access, and diversity and inclusion programs.

The inclusion of these amendments set up a clash with the Democratic-controlled Senate, which will now have to consider its own version of the NDAA. The bill will need to be reconciled between the two chambers before it can be signed into law.

One of the most controversial amendments adopted by the House would eliminate diversity, equity, and inclusion programs and staff within the Department of Defense. This was a significant win for conservative hardliners but a difficult pill to swallow for Democrats.

Another adopted amendment prohibits the secretary of defense from paying for or reimbursing expenses related to abortion services. This sparked opposition from many Democrats who indicated that they would be unlikely to support the final passage of the bill if the amendment remained.

Furthermore, the House passed an amendment that bars a healthcare program for service members from covering hormone treatments for transgender individuals and gender confirmation surgeries. Additionally, an amendment by Colorado conservative Rep. Lauren Boebert to prevent military schools from purchasing certain books in their libraries also succeeded.

Despite these controversial amendments, the bill ultimately passed on a largely party-line vote of 219 to 210. Four Democrats crossed party lines to vote with Republicans, while four GOP members voted against the bill.

The passage of the defense bill highlighted the influence of conservative hardliners in the narrow GOP majority. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy defended the strategy of allowing controversial amendments, stating that members have a voice in shaping the final bill.

The Senate is expected to begin consideration of its own version of the NDAA next week, which will undoubtedly lead to further debates and clashes over competing priorities. As the legislative process unfolds, it remains uncertain what the final version of the defense bill will look like.