What Abortion And Drag Shows Have To Do With Defense Funding

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The House Freedom Caucus is threatening to block a key military spending bill over a slew of culture war issues — marking the latest challenge from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to tussle with the far right to pass legislation.

Important facts

The House of Representatives is expected to pass the $886 billion National Defense Authorization Act spending package in its Rules Committee on Tuesday and could vote as early as Friday.

But legislation could be bogged down by a series of controversial right-wing amendments that would block funding for military members who wish to travel out of state for abortions, as well as initiatives on diversity, justice and inclusion in the military and gender-transforming health care for military members and banning certain ones Books and drag shows on military bases.

Democrats and some moderate Republicans are unlikely to support the legislation if the changes pass, said Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the senior member of the House Armed Services Committee Politically playbook.

If left out, McCarthy risks angering members of the House Freedom Caucus, who have a penchant for retaliation, by cracking down on initiatives backed by the majority of the Republican conference, which commands a narrow four-seat majority in the House of Representatives which means the GOP cannot afford to lose the support of the 40 or so Freedom Caucus members who often vote as a bloc.

The bill may not even get through the House Rules Committee, which consists of four Democrats and nine Republicans, three of whom are members of the House Freedom Caucus — two of whom are Reps. Chip Roy (Texas) and Ralph Norman (SC) — CNN said that they will vote against the further development of the law without the amendments.

The legislation also provides for a 5.2% salary increase for military personnel and an additional $300 million in funding for Ukraine.

Important background

The House Armed Services Committee passed a version of the bill with broad bipartisan support (58 to 1), although it included some of the controversial changes, including a ban on drag shows at military bases and the reinstatement of unvaccinated troops, CNN reported. McCarthy, whose support is vital to pushing through any legislation in the House of Representatives, faces a difficult spot as members of the House Freedom Caucus remain angry over an agreement to raise the debt ceiling, signed earlier last month with the support of more Democrats when the Republican passed. The inclusion of controversial amendments could also jeopardize the bill’s passage in the Democratic-controlled Senate and its signing by President Joe Biden.

Big number

1,502. That’s the total number of proposed amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act, a record for the bill that has routinely passed Congress on a bipartisan basis every year since 1960.

main critic

The 98-member New Democrat Coalition issued a letter Tuesday urging McCarthy to oppose the right-wing amendments, warning that he “must make a choice between backing down to the most extreme elements in his party who want to endanger our national defense or works with sensible legislators.” Support all our troops.” Some Republicans also aligned with Democrats in criticizing their counterparts who are threatening to block the law. “We need to see the NDAA goodbye,” Rep. Jen Kiggans (R-Va.) told reporters Monday. “It’s not something that should ever be compromised.”


Other amendments under consideration include one that would block the transfer of cluster munitions to Ukraine and any other country. The legislation has the backing of both progressives and members of the far right, including MPs Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Sara Jacobs (D -California). Right-wing members opposed to the transfer largely oppose additional military aid to Ukraine, while progressives supporting the bill cite international objections to the use of cluster munitions, including the UK and Spain.

further reading

What You Should Know About the Defense Licensing Act Controversy (Time)

The military-industrial complex finally faces intense bipartisan scrutiny (The Intercept)

House Armed Forces Chief Democrat concerned by ‘far-right amendments’ to Defense Bill (The Hill)

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