A divided House voted Friday morning to pass an annual national defense bill after Republicans amended it to prohibit the Pentagon from spending taxpayers’ money to pay for travel and other abortion-related expenses.
With this pro-life amendment, the $886 billion National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2024 passed by a bipartisan vote of 219-210, with four Republicans voting no and four Democrats voting yes. Three Republicans and two Democrats didn’t vote.
The national defense bill now goes to the Senate, where Democrats are upset with the success of Republicans’ abortion prohibition on the Defense Department.
The House met Thursday to begin voting on 80 amendments advanced this week by the House Rules Committee, including an amendment from Texas Republican Reps. Chip Roy and Ronny Jackson that would prohibit Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “from paying for or reimbursing expenses relating to abortion services.”
The Jackson-Roy amendment passed, 221-213. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, was the only Democrat to vote for it.
Jackson said Thursday that the pro-life amendment “will halt the Biden administration’s illegal and immoral abortion policy” for members of the armed forces and their families.
“Taxpayer funding of travel for an abortion is in fact taxpayer-funded abortion, and this administration has been enacting policies across the government in clear violation of the law,” Jackson said. “The Biden administration has sidestepped existing statute and given the [Defense] Department permission to take this illegal course of action. This has left House Republicans with no choice but to take corrective measures and pass additional legislation.”
Heritage Action for America, the grassroots arm of The Heritage Foundation, expressed its support for the pro-life amendment in a written statement Wednesday. (The Daily Signal is the multimedia news organization of The Heritage Foundation.)
“Heritage Action supports efforts to amend the NDAA during the Rules Committee process and include language to prevent the [Defense Department] from using taxpayer money to facilitate abortions for service members and their families,” Ryan Walker, acting executive director of Heritage Action, said.
“The American people expect the military to focus on effective combat and warfighting—not fighting culture wars,” Walker added. “Blocking the Biden administration’s policy and preserving America’s decadeslong policy of preventing taxpayer dollars from funding abortions is nonnegotiable for conservatives.”
The Republican lawmakers who voted no on the final bill are Reps. Ken Buck of Colorado, Andy Biggs and Eli Crane of Arizona, and Thomas Massie of Kentucky. Republicans who abstained from voting are Jason Smith of Missouri, Brandon Williams of New York, and Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania.
Democrats who voted yes are Jared Golden of Maine, Don Davis of North Carolina, Marie G. Perez of Washington, and Gabe Vasquez of New Mexico. The two Democrats who abstained are Dwight Evans of Pennsylvania and Ruben Gallego of Arizona.
“Each year, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorizes funding levels and provides authorities for the U.S. military and other critical defense priorities, ensuring America’s forces have the training, equipment, and resources they need to carry out their missions,” the Senate Armed Services Committee’s executive summary of the legislation says.
The Senate Armed Services Committee previously considered 445 amendments to the bill, adopting 286, and voted 24-1 to advance it June 23. The day before, the House Armed Services Committee had voted 58-1 to advance the legislation, with Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., the sole vote against it.
Following Thursday’s updates, especially the pro-life amendment, Democrat leaders in the House expressed their opposition to the legislation.
“Extreme MAGA Republicans have chosen to hijack the historically bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act to continue attacking reproductive freedom and jamming their right-wing ideology down the throats of the American people,” Democrats said in a written statement, adding:
House Republicans have turned what should be a meaningful investment in our men and women in uniform into an extreme and reckless legislative joyride.
The bill undermines a woman’s freedom to seek abortion care, targets the rights of LGBTQ+ servicemembers and bans books that should otherwise be available to military families. House Democrats will always put people over politics to protect our national security. We will vote no on final passage of this bill.
Similarly, Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee said in a written statement that they would vote “no.”
“The bill we passed out of committee sent a clear, united message to our allies and partners, global competitors, and the American people that democracy still works, and Congress is still functional,” the statement said. “We made clear that we are dedicated to recruiting and retaining the strongest, most diverse fighting force and ensuring that everyone, including people of color, women, and LGBTQ+ individuals, would have the same chance to serve without having to work harder or sacrifice more for the same opportunities.”
“That bill no longer exists,” committee Democrats said.
Ken McIntyre contributed to this report. This is a breaking story and may be updated.
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