Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-La.) and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.)

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-La.) and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) conduct a news conference on June 13, 2024 in Washington, D.C.

(Photo: Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images)

Bloat and 'Bigotry': Six Democrats Join With House GOP to Pass $833 Billion Pentagon Budget

“The far-right extremists in Congress and their enablers have made their values clear: bigotry over inclusivity, security, and our climate."

Previewing what one anti-war group called "a terrifying, hate-driven vision of a U.S. government under undivided conservative control," the Republican-controlled U.S. House on Friday not only passed its latest military spending package of nearly $1 trillion, but included a number of amendments attacking the bodily autonomy and other rights of service members.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was passed in the House largely along party lines, with 217 voting for the $884 billion package and 199 voting against it.

Six Democrats—Reps. Henry Cuellar (Texas), Donald Davis (N.C.), Jared Golden (Maine), Vicente Gonzalez (Texas), Mary Peltola (Alaska), and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (Wa.)—joined with the Republican majority to help pass the measure.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, once again noted her disapproval of a bill that places military spending over "investments in domestic priorities, from education to housing, healthcare to childcare," as she has in previous years—but the annual Pentagon funding package drew additional ire for its inclusion of amendments related to abortion rights, transgender healthcare, and other culture war battles.

"For the second year in a row, MAGA House Republicans pursued a path of extremism for the annual Pentagon authorization bill to continue waging their attacks on climate action, reproductive rights, LBGTQ+ rights, and communities of color," said Jayapal. "This bloated $833 billion Pentagon authorization bill approves $8.6 billion in additional tax dollars for an out-of-control military budget, expanding costly and unnecessary weapons systems while banning gender-affirming care, abortion travel, and diversity efforts for servicemembers."

The amendments pushed through by Republicans include one proposed by Rep. Beth Van Duyne (R-Texas), which would block a Biden administration policy that reimburses members of the military for travel costs they incur when seeking an abortion, and one put forward by Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.), which would block funding for gender-affirming medical procedures for service members.

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) proposed a ban on any funds in the legislation being used to implement President Joe Biden's climate change executive orders.

Reps. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) and Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.) proposed placing Pentagon jobs related to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives on a permanent hiring freeze, and Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) added an amendment requiring the Reconciliation Monument, a Confederate memorial, to be relocated to Arlington National Cemetery.

On Thursday, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) called the latter amendment "disheartening."

"Mr. Clyde is proposing that we return a monument to treason to our national cemetery without any accompanying context or education," said Beyer. "The monument in question is a basic ode to the Confederacy, to romanticize a lost cause."

The Republicans' amendments, said Stephen Miles, president of Win Without War, aimed to "turn the NDAA into a vehicle for numerous far-right, hate-fueled amendments that attack the core rights of our friends, neighbors, and communities."

While doing so, said Miles, the GOP "left positive amendments on the cutting room floor, like needed efforts to repeal the 2002 [Authorization for Use of Military Force], cut the ballooning Pentagon budget, and renew and expand the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) to do justice to victims of radiation exposure from nuclear weapons testing and uranium mining."

"The far-right extremists in Congress and their enablers have made their values clear: bigotry over inclusivity, security, and our climate," Miles added. "We thank our progressive allies for pushing for amendments that would have helped everyday people. Now that Republicans have made their decision, we need a unified chorus from Democrats that our basic rights aren't up for debate, and to have these hateful measures stripped from the final bill."

Jayapal added that progressive members of the House were barred from proposing amendments to "protect human rights abroad, reaffirm congressional war powers, strengthen labor and civil rights for service members, and reduce waste, fraud, and abuse in military spending.

The NDAA in its current form is unlikely to pass in the Democratic-led Senate, where the Armed Services Committee held a markup this week on its own version of the legislation.

Jayapal expressed hope that after the November elections, the NDAA process will be "led by a Democratic House that allows an open and robust debate on the issues Americans care about—national security and peace, upholding human rights, protecting our servicemembers and their families, and taking on the climate crisis and corporate corruption—not cynical attacks on vulnerable Americans."

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