The $886 billion 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed in the U.S. House Friday, with the Delaware Valley’s Democratic representatives voting against it and Bucks County Republican Brian Fitzpatrick voting for it.
At issue are GOP-backed amendments pushing back on new policies put in place by the Biden Defense Department (DoD) on contentious social issues like abortion, transgender medical procedures, and DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.) For example, after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision sent regulating abortion back to the states, the DoD implemented new policies paying for travel for women in the armed forces who are stationed in states with abortion restrictions and want to travel out of state for the procedures.
In a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, all Republican members of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee wrote the policy change “would force taxpayers to subsidize abortions by paying for service members or their dependents to travel to obtain the procedure and by granting additional leave for this purpose.”
Under the longtime rules of the Hyde Amendment, federal funding for abortions is not allowed. Critics say the Biden administration’s policy violates that rule.
Another amendment would block the military from funding gender procedures on minor children that could result in sterilization — including hormone therapy and puberty blockers. It is another issue injected into the NDAA by the Biden administration. National Review reported, “A team of military medical practitioners in the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) defended “gender-affirming” care, including hormone replacement and puberty blockers for dysphoric minors as young as seven years old.”
Republicans argued the Biden administration is using the U.S. military to advance what they call “woke” politics.
“It’s a good thing the Republicans are in the majority, but it’s more important that we keep our promises to America and to our men and women who serve to defend us. And today is exactly what we did,” said Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). The NDAA passed on a largely party-line 219-210 vote.
Delaware Valley Democrats disagree.
“The bipartisan annual defense bill that I proudly passed out of committee is no longer recognizable with all the extreme amendments tacked on,” Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Chester/Berks) wrote on Twitter. “It left me no choice but to vote against it. Our service members and their families deserve better.”
Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Delaware/Philadelphia) accused Republicans of taking a bipartisan bill and “transforming” it “into an extremist manifesto that targets lifesaving care for women in uniform, attacks LGBTQ+ service members, and chooses the books that military families can read.”
“For decades, Congress has crafted and passed the National Defense Authorization Act on a bipartisan basis. While major pieces of legislation like this are – of necessity – works of compromise, House Democrats worked to craft a bipartisan bill that demonstrates our commitment to national security and ensures that our service members and their families would get the support that they deserve,” said Scanlon.
Rep. Susan Wild (D-Lehigh) said she voted against the bill because it was “hijacked by extremists.”
“I cannot and will never compromise on a woman’s freedom to control her own body,” said Wild. “This bill undermines female servicemembers’ access to reproductive healthcare at the expense of our military readiness. It is a slap in the face to our female servicemembers—women who defend American freedom every day—to tell them that they do not deserve the fundamental freedom to make their own healthcare decisions.”
Chris Gustafson, a spokesperson for the National Republican Congressional Committee, noted that Wild voted against an amendment to the NDAA that prohibits taxpayer dollars from going to the Taliban.
“Voting against pay raises for our troops and the safety of our country over taxpayer-funded late-term abortions and woke transgender ideology is extreme and dangerous,” said Gustafson. Wild is “following an extreme and dangerous agenda led by the fringe elements of their party that are entirely out of touch with the American people.”
He added Wild should explain why she is “willing to put our national security risk for (her) woke agenda.”
Neither Dean nor Fitzpatrick responded to requests for comment.