The biggest story of this past week isn’t that the House passed the military spending bill — or even that they passed it with language that beats back President Biden’s woke policies. The biggest story is the one that won’t be told: of House conservatives refusing to give an inch.
Former Congressman Jody Hice, now a special advisor to the president at Family Research Council, was blown away by the sea change in how this new Republican majority is doing business. For the last couple of years, Hice watched his party buckle under Democratic pressure, especially where military policy is concerned. “Progressively,” he told The Washington Stand, “the NDAA bills were becoming more and more woke. And we, as a Republican conference, were compromising to the demands on the Left. To see what took place Thursday night, I was just blown away. This is a major shift — not only from the woke agenda push from this administration — but this is a major shift from the direction of our own conference over the last several years, as it pertains to the NDAA.”
Late Thursday night, Republicans finally went to sleep after accomplishing what seemed impossible only hours before: adding a slew of pro-life, pro-military, anti-gender transition amendments to the bill. Democrats and the media spent the wee hours of the morning blasting the conservative changes, vowing it would never pass with such “poison pills.”
They were wrong.
Barely nine hours later, the entire NDAA — anti-woke language included — had squeaked by in a 219-210 vote, thanks to an even swap of Republicans and Democrats (four) trading sides. Reps. Jared Golden (D-Maine), Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-Wash.), Gabe Vasquez (D-N.M.), and Don Davis (D-N.C.) all threw their support behind the GOP-led bill.
Of course, the most jubilant celebration came Thursday afternoon when Congressman Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) managed to include language rolling back the Pentagon’s taxpayer funding of abortion — an absolute defiance of the law. In one of the most powerful moments of that debate, mom-to-be Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.) stood on the House floor and made it clear: “I am a United States veteran and a woman elected to Congress while pregnant. Advocating for a service member to have a child ripped from her womb completely destroys everything this military stands for.”
As Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) explained on “Washington Watch” moments before that vote, what the Department of Defense did with this sudden policy was nothing but an unconstitutional “end run around many of the pro-life states’ laws and all the hard work that’s been done after Dobbs overturned Roe.”
“This has become a really important issue in the country,” Johnson insisted. And what they’ve done, he explained, is used “executive fiat” through the Department of Defense. Secretary Lloyd Austin “[has] said that they will pay for or reimburse expenses relating to abortion services. So in other words, if a service member or a woman serving is pregnant, and she’s on a base somewhere in a [red state] … then she can travel to a state that provides abortion — and taxpayers will reimburse her for that. That’s a violation of the Hyde Amendment,” Johnson fumed.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins made sure to emphasize, “Just to be very clear here, we’re talking about elective abortions. So this is new territory [President Biden is staking out]. For decades, [there] has been a bipartisan position that taxpayers would not be forced to facilitate abortion.”
Obviously, this has been a huge flash point in the Senate, where Coach Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) has taken months of heat for holding up certain military promotions until the DOD drops its reckless abortion advocacy. And while Democrats — the president included — blame the senator for everything from recruitment problems to retention, they refuse to even meet with Tuberville. If this delay was really so devastating to military readiness, the coach has said, you’d think Biden would pick up the phone and try to negotiate.
“That’s what this place is about,” he added. “It’s about working with each other, talking it out, getting in situations where you can maybe compromise to a point. I mean, here’s a guy that doesn’t even want to talk.”
He may be forced to, now that Republicans have teed up a 1,200-page rebuke of the last two years of Defense Department radicalism. If Biden wants to blame someone for America’s shrinking force, he ought to look in the mirror.
After all, it’s “the president and his administration [who’ve] injected into the military all of this woke social policy nonsense. … We have ESG and DEI and anything else you can imagine —the funding of drag queen shows on military bases, [the] violation of parental rights. We were able to get amendments … to take care of all of that,” Johnson said. But frankly, “it’s far more contentious than it should be. You know, our military has a very important job,” he insisted. “They’re trained to be a powerful force that wins wars and defends our nation, not experimentation with social policy. And so it’s just completely disingenuous for the president to [blame Republicans or blame Tuberville for these problems]. … [I]t’s not Republicans and conservatives that are inserting this. It was him. We’re undoing the damage that has been done.”
Along with crushing the Biden abortion policy, Republicans also held the line on the avalanche of diversity training and wildly inappropriate mission creep like taxpayer-funded gender transitions. Amendments to:
- Outlaw the flying of Pride flags on military property (Norman Amendment #34) passed 218-213;
- End the indoctrination of children in Defense Department schools by banning pornographic and dangerous gender ideology books (Boebert Amendment #35) passed 222-209;
- Ban taxpayer-funding of gender transition procedures (Rosendale Amendment #10) passed 222-211;
- Strip the funding for Chief Diversity Officers or Senior Advisors for Diversity and Inclusion from the ranks (Roy Amendment #30) passed 217-212; and
- Outright block the DOD from creating new DEI administrator positions or taking action to fill existing DEI jobs (Burlison Amendment #62) passed 218-213.
One lone Democrat — Rep. Henry Cuellar (Texas) — voted with conservatives to stop the president’s out-of-control extremism on abortion and transgenderism. And while he refused to comment about the decision, he probably heard from the same constituents that his neighbor Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) did. “The American people I’ve talked to back home don’t want a weak military; they don’t want a woke military; they don’t want rainbow propaganda on bases; they don’t want to pay for troops’ sex changes.”
And yet, as Perkins pointed out, Biden blames Republicans for injecting social issues into the military. “You know, it’s like they poke the bear, and the bear pushes back — and they accuse the bear of being aggressive. The Left has been pushing this stuff for years.” And finally, conservatives pushed back.
“I do want to point out,” Perkins said, “that there’s something unique here under this Republican Congress. … I don’t want people to miss that … a year ago, we couldn’t even have a debate under the Democratic rules. There was no debate. It’s just that you were steamrolled in the Left’s process of getting their agenda through. … [This open dialogue] is something that hasn’t happened in a very long time.
“Yeah, what a concept,” Johnson joked. “We were able to get some real process reforms in that long, drawn-out battle for the speakership in January. And as painful as that process was for everyone, the result was really good. We got transparency again. We eliminated—forever, we hope—the possibility of omnibus spending bills and giant pieces of legislation that no one has read. … It takes a lot more time and effort, but this is what is demanded, and it’s what the American people deserve. And I’m really glad we’ve gotten back to some regular order here.”
In the meantime, Republicans are crossing their fingers that the heavy lifting they’ve done on the NDAA survives the Democrat-led Senate. One thing’s for sure, Perkins said. Biden doesn’t have Tuberville to kick around anymore. If he wants to end the freeze on military promotions, there’s a simple solution now: support this bill. “The remedy’s right here in front of him.”
Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.
EDITOR NOTE: This Washington Stand column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. ©2023 Family Research Council.
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