House Republicans Pass Defense Bill Restricting Abortion Access and Curbing Diversity Efforts

by Gabriel Martinez
defense bill

On Friday, the House of Representatives approved a comprehensive defense bill that includes a projected 5.2% pay increase for service members. However, the legislation deviates from conventional military policy due to Republican additions that impede abortion coverage, hinder diversity initiatives at the Pentagon, and restrict transgender care. These additions generated significant division within the chamber.

Democrats opposed the package, which had previously received nearly unanimous support from the House Armed Services Committee weeks ago. However, during a contentious late-night floor debate this week, the bill was modified to include the GOP’s priorities. The final vote resulted in a 219-210 outcome, with four Democrats siding with the Republicans and four Republicans in opposition. Considering the Democratic majority in the Senate, it is expected that the bill, as written, will not progress further.

While efforts to cease U.S. funding for Ukraine in its conflict with Russia were unsuccessful, Republicans introduced provisions aimed at curbing the Defense Department’s diversity initiatives and limiting access to abortions. Senator Tommy Tuberville, a Republican from Alabama, has been championing the abortion issue and is single-handedly obstructing the Senate confirmation of military officers, including the new Marine Corps commandant.

Representative Lauren Boebert, a Republican from Colorado, stated, “We are continuing to block the Biden administration’s ‘woke’ agenda,” expressing support for the bill’s provisions.

This transformation of the essential defense bill into a partisan battleground highlights how the military has unexpectedly become embroiled in disputes concerning race, equity, and women’s healthcare, which are now driving the Republican Party’s priorities in the midst of America’s growing national divide.

During a particularly tense moment in the debate, Representative Joyce Beatty, a Democrat from Ohio and former chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, voiced her difficulty in witnessing Republicans erode progress for women, Black individuals, and other marginalized groups within the military. Her remarks were directed at an amendment by Representative Eli Crane, a Republican from Arizona, which sought to prevent the Defense Department from enforcing race-based training for hiring, promotions, or retention. Crane argued that neither Russia nor China mandates diversity measures in their military operations and contended that the United States should follow suit, stating, “We don’t want our military to be a social experiment. We want the best of the best.” Beatty requested the removal of Crane’s pejorative use of the phrase “colored people” when referring to Black military personnel.

The vote on Friday marked a tumultuous week for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California, as conservatives essentially dictated the agenda, forcing their colleagues to consider their proposals for the annual bill, which has historically received bipartisan approval since World War II. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican from Georgia, praised McCarthy’s management of the process, stating, “I think he’s doing great because we are moving through… it was like over 1,500 amendments… and we’re moving through them.” Greene revealed that she changed her stance and supported the bill after McCarthy offered her a seat on the committee responsible for negotiating the final version with the Senate.

In a joint leadership statement, Democrats explained their opposition to the bill, asserting that Republicans had “turned what should be a meaningful investment in our men and women in uniform into an extreme and reckless legislative joyride.” Representatives Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, and Pete Aguilar of California criticized the “extreme MAGA Republicans” for using the historically bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act to attack reproductive freedom and impose their right-wing ideology on the American people.

The defense bill authorizes $874.2 billion in defense spending for the upcoming year, aligning with President Joe Biden’s budget request. The allocation of funding will be determined later when Congress addresses the appropriation bills, following the regular process.

The package establishes policies across the Defense Department and certain aspects of the Energy Department, with a particular emphasis this year on the United States’ approach to China, Russia, and other national security concerns.

Republican opposition to U.S. support for the war in Ukraine resulted in numerous amendments, including one that sought to block the use of cluster munitions recently sent by Biden to aid Ukraine in its conflict with Russia. This move was controversial because many other countries have banned cluster munitions due to the risks they pose to civilians through unexploded ordnance.

While most attempts to halt U.S. support for Ukraine were unsuccessful, proposals to roll back the Pentagon’s diversity and inclusion measures and limit certain medical care for transgender personnel were approved.

Republican Representative Ronny Jackson of Texas, a former White House physician, spearheaded the abortion provision, which would prohibit the defense secretary from paying for or reimbursing expenses related to abortion services.

Jackson and other Republicans commended Tuberville for his stance against the Pentagon’s abortion policy, which gained attention following state-level bans on the procedure after last summer’s Supreme Court decision overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling. Jackson remarked, “Now he’s got support; he’s got back up here in the House.”

Nevertheless, the fate of the House’s position remains uncertain as the legislation progresses to the Senate, which is developing its own version of the bill. Senate Democrats hold the majority but will need to collaborate with Republicans on a bipartisan measure to secure sufficient support for passage in their chamber.

McCarthy praised the House for eliminating “radical programs” that, in his view, distract from the military’s core purpose.

Due to the social policy amendments, Democratic members of the House Armed Services Committee, led by Representative Adam Smith of Washington state, withdrew their support. Smith, who is white, attempted to explain to Crane and other colleagues the significance of the Pentagon’s diversity initiatives in the United States. Drawing from his own experiences as a businessman, he emphasized the importance of reaching beyond one’s immediate circle to hire and gain a deeper understanding of diverse individuals. Smith lamented the transformation of the bill, which had received overwhelming support in the committee, stating that it “no longer exists” and had devolved into “an ode to bigotry and ignorance.”

Note: Some minor changes have been made to improve readability and clarity while maintaining the original meaning of the text.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about defense bill

What does the defense bill passed by House Republicans entail?

The defense bill passed by House Republicans includes a 5.2% pay raise for service members. However, it also introduces provisions that limit abortion coverage, curtail diversity initiatives at the Pentagon, and restrict transgender care.

Why did Democrats vote against the defense bill?

Democrats opposed the defense bill because it was amended by Republicans to include provisions that they considered extreme and reckless. They argued that Republicans were using the bill to attack reproductive freedom and push their right-wing ideology.

Will the defense bill’s provisions on abortion and diversity initiatives become law?

The fate of the defense bill’s provisions on abortion and diversity initiatives is uncertain. While the bill passed in the House, it still needs to be approved by the Senate, where Democrats hold the majority. The Senate may modify or remove these provisions in their version of the bill.

How does the defense bill impact U.S. support for Ukraine?

Efforts to halt U.S. funding for Ukraine’s war against Russia were not successful in the defense bill. However, Republicans introduced amendments related to the use of cluster munitions and their ban by other countries, which could impact the support provided by the U.S. to Ukraine.

What is the significance of the defense bill’s impact on the military?

The defense bill’s provisions and the debates surrounding them reflect how issues of race, equity, and women’s healthcare have become contentious within the military. The bill’s transformation into a partisan battleground highlights the growing national divide and the Republican Party’s shifting priorities in relation to the military.

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JohnDoe123 July 14, 2023 - 8:56 pm

this defense bill is just outrageous! limiting abortion access and stopping diversity efforts is such a step backward for our country. smh!

ConcernedCitizen July 15, 2023 - 1:38 am

It’s disappointing to see partisan politics getting in the way of a crucial defense bill. We need bipartisan cooperation to ensure the best for our military and national security. Let’s put aside ideological differences and work together!

FreedomFighter87 July 15, 2023 - 10:01 am

Finally, some common sense from House Republicans! Abortion shouldn’t be funded by the defense department, and diversity initiatives are just woke nonsense. Great job!

ProgressiveActivist July 15, 2023 - 5:32 pm

It’s disheartening to see the military being used as a battleground for divisive issues. We should be focusing on our national security, not restricting healthcare and diversity. This bill is a step in the wrong direction.

MAGA2024 July 15, 2023 - 5:41 pm

About time someone stood up against the liberal agenda! Our military should be about strength and readiness, not social experiments. Proud of the Republicans for pushing through this bill!


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