House Passes Defense Policy Bill, Leaving Out Abortion, Transgender Provisions

from The Wall Street Journal,

The House passed sweeping annual legislation Thursday that designates top U.S. military priorities, overcoming grumbling from some Republicans who unsuccessfully sought to include policies to restrict abortion access and transgender healthcare for service members. House lawmakers voted 310-118 to approve the National Defense Authorization Act, which would increase the national security budget by roughly 3% to $886 billion from last year’s $858 billion authorization bill. The NDAA, which typically draws broad bipartisan majorities, was passed under a fast-track procedure that requires a two-thirds threshold. House approval of the NDAA came a day after the Senate voted 87-13 to back it.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R., La.) said the measure “will strengthen our national security against adversaries like China and Russia, and support our service members.”

The bill’s approval Thursday marked the 63rd consecutive year that Congress has voted to pass the authorization.

“It’s democracy. It’s supposed to be messy,” said Rep. Adam Smith (D., Wash.), the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee. “Government is functioning just fine, and yes, this is a good piece of evidence for where it’s functioned quite well.” The bill had the support of leaders of both parties and drew the backing of a majority of both Republican and Democratic members. Republicans were 147 to 73 in favor, while Democrats backed it by 163 to 45.

They cut a House provision that would have prohibited the Defense Department from paying for travel costs for service members who travel to another state for an abortion in the wake of a 2022 Supreme Court ruling [and] to stop the military’s healthcare program [from] providing gender-related surgeries and hormone treatments for transgender people. “The truth is, the bulk of the bill has nothing to do with the social policy reforms that our conference is concerned about…but there’s some things that you just can’t reconcile between a divided Congress,” said Rep. Mike Rogers (R., Ala.), who leads the House’s Armed Services Committee. The lack of inclusion of the social policy measures prompted protests from some Republicans.

The proposal would send $300 million to help fortify Ukraine’s military after nearly two years of fighting against the Russian invasion, in a program separate from the tens of billions of dollars now under debate in Congress. It would also direct a special inspector general to investigate how the more than $100 billion that Congress has approved so far has been spent, a provision meant to extinguish Republican concerns about misspending. “We must enhance the oversight of our assistance to ensure it gets to where it needs to go and no taxpayer dollars are wasted,” Sen. Jim Risch (R., Idaho), the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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