Metro Weekly

House Republicans Attach Anti-Trans Amendments to Defense Bill

Congressional Republicans have attached several right-wing amendments to a key defense bill, including two targeting the transgender community.

Photo: U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. Matt Hecht

Republicans in Congress have adopted a series of amendments targeting access to abortion and gender-affirming care that could threaten to derail efforts to pass the annual National Defense Authorization Act.

On Friday, July 14, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the defense funding bill, with several conservative amendments, including five taking aim at restricting access to abortion-related reproductive services or gender-affirming care, intact. 

The NDAA passed on a narrow 219-210 vote, with four Republicans opposing measure and four Democrats supporting it — an unusual outcome for a bill that generally enjoys bipartisan support, but one that speaks to the deep divisions between Republicans and Democrats on social issues.

On Thursday, in response to pressure from social conservatives within the Republican House caucus, Speaker Kevin McCarthy brought forth a series of controversial conservative amendments, which were tacked onto the defense bill on largely party-line votes, reports The Hill.

Among those amendments were one to end the Pentagon’s policy of reimbursing travel expenses for service members who obtain abortions  — a policy that has led Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) to block hundred of military promotions in the upper chamber in protest.

Republicans also approved two transgender related amendments. One would prohibit the health insurance program for active-duty service members from covering the cost of gender confirmation surgery and hormone treatments for transgender individuals.

The other would prohibit the Exceptional Family Member Program — a multi-agency program providing various forms of support, including medical services, to military families that have a member with special needs —  from covering transition-related treatments.

Another amendment, from U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), would block military schools from purchasing or having “pornographic and radical gender ideology books” in their libraries. Critics have argued that such language is misleading and misrepresents the contents of books touching on LGBTQ-related issues or containing LGBTQ characters to justify censoring them. 

Democrats have criticized the amendments as a “poison pill” and threatened to withhold their support if the amendments remain intact. 

The bill now heads to the Democratic-led Senate where Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is expected to reject the controversial amendments, meaning that the Senate’s version of the bill and the House’s version will have to go before a conference committee to iron out the differences between the bills before the Sept. 30 deadline by which President Biden must sign the bill. 

Alternatively, McCarthy could pass the Senate version of the bill through the House, justifying the move on the grounds that any measure must have gained bipartisan support in order to avoid a filibuster and pass the Senate.

But such a move would likely anger a significant part of the far-right part of the Republican caucus, who have backed the amendments as “messaging” bills to GOP voters showing their commitment to social conservatism — and could lead some Republicans to attempt to depose McCarthy through procedural maneuvers approved as part of a rules package that was passed in January to assist McCarthy in becoming Speaker

Regardless of what happens with the bill in either chamber, Republicans signaled their intention to blame any delay or fallout from failing to pass the bill on Democrats, accusing them of failing to adequately support the military in order to push a “woke” social agenda, according to The Hill.

“It’ll really show America that the Democrats are so extreme that they won’t defend the military,” McCarthy said of any possible delays that could result from Democrats’ refusal to allow the abortion and transgender health care provisions to stand.

“It’s always funny to listen to my Democrat colleagues say that we’re politicizing this somehow by injecting cultural issues, as if they’re not driving the train on cultural issues over at [the Department of Defense] as we speak,” said Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), who introduced two amendments focusing on defunding and eliminating diversity and inclusion initiatives in the Armed Forces.

“You can’t make this stuff up,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said in a news conference after the amendments were added to the defense bill.

“And the only explanation for it is [Republicans] are so obsessed with jamming their extreme right-wing ideology down the throats of the American people, that extreme MAGA Republicans are willing to even detonate the ability of our military to do what it needs to do to keep us safe,” he said.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, criticized the amendments as politicizing what historically was a measure enjoying broad support.

“What was once an example of compromise and functioning government has become an ode to bigotry and ignorance,” Smith said in a statement. “Attacks on reproductive rights, access to basic health care, and efforts to address our country’s history of racism and marginalization of huge swaths of our country will worsen our recruitment and retention crisis, make our military less capable, and do grievous harm to our national defense and national security.”

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