House Republicans Pass National Defense Authorization Act Despite Conservative Amendments, Alienating Democrats

House Republicans Pass National Defense Authorization Act After Concessions to Conservatives

Washington – House Republicans took a significant gamble and passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with a narrow 219-210 vote. This legislative victory came after GOP leadership made several concessions to the right flank of the party. The passage of the NDAA is a pivotal moment as it sets the Pentagon’s policy agenda and authorizes the Defense Department’s use of federal funding. The bill traditionally garners bipartisan support, but this year, some conservative amendments have created divisions that have alienated Democratic lawmakers from supporting the final version.

In a last-minute push, members of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative lawmakers, pressured House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to hold floor votes on contentious amendments. These amendments covered a range of issues, from the Pentagon’s abortion policy to climate change initiatives. Despite the infighting, House Republicans managed to push the NDAA through without substantial Democratic support.

One of the contentious amendments focused on dismantling a Pentagon policy that reimburses out-of-state travel expenses for service members seeking abortions. This amendment, proposed by Rep. Ronny Jackson of Texas, has gained significant support among House conservatives, with over 70 co-sponsors. The amendment passed in a mostly party-line vote of 221-213.

Another amendment targeted military assistance to Ukraine, with a minority of House GOP lawmakers expressing skepticism about continued support. However, a bipartisan vote of 89-341 defeated Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s amendment, which sought to roll back $300 million in funding to Kyiv.

The NDAA’s passage also saw the approval of an amendment limiting gender-affirming care for transgender service members, proposed by Rep. Matt Rosendale of Missouri. This amendment passed along party lines with a vote of 222-211.

The Senate is now set to vote on its own version of the NDAA after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced it on the floor. Both the House and Senate versions include President Joe Biden’s proposed 5.2% pay raise for federal workers and military members. The two chambers will need to reconcile their versions, with the House’s abortion policy amendment likely to be a key point of negotiation.

The NDAA is of immense importance as it shapes the Defense Department’s budget and policies. While it does not provide direct funding, it allows for the authorization of spending, which officials from the Department of Defense have urged Congress to act on promptly to maintain national security. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin emphasized the significance, stating that an on-time appropriation is the best way for Congress to ensure the country’s strategic advantage.

The passage of the NDAA underscores the ongoing battles within the Republican Party and the impact of conservative lawmakers on policy decisions. With the rise of far-right lawmakers threatening to stall legislative action, debates over issues like abortion, guns, the border, and social policy remain central to the conservative agenda. As Congress moves forward with negotiations and compromises, it will be crucial for lawmakers to find common ground and deliver on national security and defense funding.