House Approves Ban on Transgender Procedures in Military, Repeals Abortion Travel Policy

John Haughey
By John Haughey
July 14, 2023Congress
House Approves Ban on Transgender Procedures in Military, Repeals Abortion Travel Policy
The U.S. Capitol in Washington on June 19, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

House conservatives are bundling the nation’s defense budget with “culture war” amendments they say are needed to reverse the Biden administration’s “woke” politicization of the military through “radical race theories” instituted in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs.

In the span of 10 hours on July 13, the Republican-led House repealed the Department of Defense’s (DOD’s) abortion travel policy, prohibited DOD health care programs from providing gender transition procedures, and introduced a host of other proposed add-ons targeting DEI programs—including several that failed—to a must-pass defense budget normally approved in bipartisan accord.

Democrats resisted fiercely, contending the nation’s defense budget is being held hostage by a relatively small cadre—the 40-member House Freedom Caucus—manipulating its pivot in sustaining the GOP’s narrow 10-seat chamber majority to impose an “extreme right-wing agenda” onto the Pentagon and, eventually, the nation.

That was the nub of repeated—and often heated—point-counterpoint exchanges during daylong deliberations on the House floor as the proposed $886.3 Fiscal Year 2024 defense budget, referred to as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), was introduced for adoption with 370 proposed amendments.

80 Hot-Button Amendments

Both House and Senate armed forces adopted their versions of the proposed NDAA last month. The House did so in a 58–1 vote and the Senate 24–1.

The annual defense budget is geared to be implemented when the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1. The House is expected to formally adopt the NDAA by July 14 when it resumes deliberations at 10:30 a.m. after adjourning around 11:30 p.m. on July 13.

Both chambers’ defense spending plans top out at the $886.3 billion requested in March by the Biden administration, but the Senate version of the NDAA—which will be introduced on the Democrat-led chamber floor next week—does not include the amendments in the House version targeting “woke” policies.

Representatives in early afternoon began sorting through 80 proposed NDAA amendments dispatched to the floor by the House Rules Committee that morning. The day before, the panel had forwarded 290 proposed add-ons “en blanc,” meaning many are packaged for composite votes because they are not contentious.

House Foreign Affairs Committee member Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) questions U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington on Capitol Hill on April 28, 2022. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

DOD Abortion Travel Policy ‘Illegal’

Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) sought to repeal a DOD policy that reimburses expenses for service members who travel to obtain an abortion from a state where the procedure is restricted to a state where it is permitted. It was among the contentious add-ons adopted in a near-total partisan vote, 221–213.

Mr. Jackson maintained the policy was installed by the Biden administration in October 2022 “to sidestep” the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2022 Roe v. Wade repeal to “not only expand abortion access but also leave American taxpayers on the hook to subsidize abortion services.”

He said the policy is in direct violation of Section 1093 of U.S. Code Title 10 “which restricts funds made available to the DOD from being used for abortions.”

Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) called the amendment “a dangerous health care travel ban” for women serving in the military, noting 46 percent are now based in states where abortion is restricted or banned.

A former Navy officer, Ms. Sherrill asked: “How am I supposed to recommend to young girls in my district that they should attend a service academy like I did when we know this amendment would mean they would be signing away their right to basic health care? This makes our service women pawns in [conservative Republicans’] extreme agenda and is a steppingstone to larger bans, restrictions, and wholesale disregard for women’s health care in America.”

Reps. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.) and Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.)—in a theme Democrats would repeat all day and night—also argued the proposed amendment is “part and parcel” of a GOP plan to implement a federal abortion ban.

House Armed Services Committee Chair Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) said the amendment simply repeals an illegal policy.

“DOD’s abortion policy is a flagrant disregard to our moral principles. This is part of the Biden administration’s politicization of the military. It is completely unnecessary. It is clearly unlawful,” Mr. Rogers said.

Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.), an Air Force veteran, called Democrats’ contention that repealing the policy is “somehow attacking women in the service” a “lie.”

“To say you would be somehow hurting someone’s rights in the military because you stand with life is pretty bizarre to me,” she said.

Anna Paulina Luna
Anna Paulina Luna, (R) Representative-Elect, Florida, in a still from video released by NTD on Dec. 20, 2022. (NTD)

Taking ‘A Meat Clever to DEI’

Among other adopted amendments are measures prohibiting the DOD’s health care program from “furnishing sex reassignment surgeries and gender hormone treatments for transgender individuals” and from providing gender transition procedures through a program designed for special-needs family members.

Proposed “culture war” add-ons also addressed vestiges of critical race theory (CRT) and DEI that weren’t eliminated in measures already incorporated into the proposed NDAA adopted by the House Armed Services Committee.

They include amendments to eliminate DOD DEI offices and programs and prohibit funding for “diversity officers,” to defunding programs that promote “the idea that any race is inherently superior or inferior to any other race, color, or national origin,” and support “certain race-based concepts.”

“This NDAA, in the base bill, takes a meat cleaver to DEI and the amendments that we have adopted in the last round of voting have certainly ensured that DEI … will not be a principle feature of our military service,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said in introducing a proposal to prohibit federal funds for DEI training, one of several near-exact measures targeting “woke” programs—and one of the few that failed in a vote where several Republicans joined Democrats in opposition.

Mr. Gaetz sensed his amendment would fail, but was not apologetic about the blur of proposals designed to “pull [DEI] up by its root” and rid the DOD of “the cancer of DEI.”

Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) said instead of discrediting DEI, Mr. Gaetz and his fellow conservatives were demonstrating “exactly why we need diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. Every day our military grows more diverse, more and more reflecting the diversity of our nation. This amendment does nothing to address the recruitment shortfalls that our services are facing and instead it will only make it more difficult to recruit Americans on diverse backgrounds representing the true makeup of our nation.”

“What are you so afraid of?” Mr. Horsford said, directly confronting Mr. Gaetz on the floor. “Why do you keep bringing these divisive issues to the body of this floor? You are out of order. You are exhausting.”

Rep. Jill Tokuda (D-Hawaii) said seven House Armed Services Committee subpanels have spent months “debating DEI but apparently it wasn’t enough so here we are, again forced to debate yet another bad amendment.”

Ms. Tokuda said 40 percent of the active-duty military are minorities. “For the sponsor of this amendment to be proud of ‘taking a meat cleaver to DEI’ flies in the face of all Americans and the diversity that we represent,” she said, wondering what Mr. Gaetz and fellow conservatives were trying to achieve with buckets of amendments all basically targeting the same things.

“If the question is, ‘When will we stop debating DEI?’ the answer is, when we get rid of DEI in the military,” Mr. Gaetz said. “We will be here fighting this fight each and every day because what fashions itself as an inclusive ideology is in fact inherently divisive and harmful.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) speaks at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington on May 18, 2023. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Ukraine Amendments Fail

Mr. Gaetz was also among sponsors of six failed amendments that proposed restricting or eliminating financial and military assistance for Ukraine, including a proposal by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) to prohibit “cluster munitions or cluster munitions technology” from being sold or transferred to Ukraine.

All were defeated easily with the “nay” tallying more than 300 in each rejection.

The House resumes deliberations July 14 on the remaining dozen or so amendments among the 80 presented for debate and is expected, presumably, to adopt the defense budget before adjourning for the weekend.

Mr. Jackson, while pleased his amendment repealing the DOD’s abortion travel policy was adopted, lamented the demise of Mr. Gaetz’s proposal to ban DEI in federal programs.

“I was disappointed,” he told The Epoch Times. “I mean, we need to get that garbage out of our military. So, yeah, disappointed some of those didn’t pass.”

Rep. Shri Thanedar (D-Mich.), who described himself as a “pro-life member of Congress,” said he was among Democrats who supported Mr. Jackson’s measure.

“I think that the Department of Defense using money to pay for travel to another state sets a precedent that we don’t want in the United States,” he told The Epoch Times. There is “nothing stopping people themselves from traveling state to state. And for me, it was a fairly black and white issue.”

Democrats can claim conservatives are using the defense budget process to promote an agenda, Rep. Nick Langworthy (R-N.Y.) said, but it’s really just the opposite.

“The purpose of these bills is to fund our military,” he told The Epoch Times. “Things have been added in [defense budgets] the last several years” and now “the ‘wokeness’ needs to get out of our military.”

Jackson Richman and Joseph Lord contributed to this article.

From The Epoch Times

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