In a daring move, House Republicans successfully passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) after making concessions to the conservative wing of their party. The legislation, which sets the Pentagon’s policy agenda and allocates defense funding, received a 219-210 vote in favor. Members of the House Freedom Caucus, known for their conservative stance, exerted pressure on the party leadership to include last-minute floor votes on controversial amendments. These amendments touched on various issues, such as the Pentagon’s abortion policy and climate change initiatives, creating divisions within the House.
The introduction of these amendments jeopardized the final passage of the NDAA, traditionally a bipartisan bill. However, despite the internal conflicts, House Republicans managed to secure its approval without significant Democratic support. One notable amendment, led by Rep. Ronny Jackson, aimed to dismantle the Pentagon’s policy that reimburses out-of-state travel expenses for service members seeking abortions. Another set of amendments focused on Ukraine spending and transgender healthcare policies within the Pentagon.
The Senate will now proceed to vote on its own version of the NDAA, with both chambers seeking to reconcile their bills. Both versions include President Joe Biden’s proposed 5.2% pay raise for federal workers and military personnel, as well as a budget close to his recommended $886 billion for the Department of Defense. Notably, the House’s version, which revises the Pentagon’s abortion policy, will likely be a crucial point of negotiation during the consolidation process.
The passage of the amendment dismantling the Pentagon’s abortion policy was seen as a significant victory for House conservatives. It garnered support from over 70 co-sponsors among House conservatives and passed on a mostly party-line vote of 221-213. While Rep. Adam Smith, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, expressed concerns about the inclusion of “extreme right-wing amendments,” the Republican-led House proceeded with the vote.
The timing of the NDAA’s final passage has raised questions, with some Republicans questioning the need for immediate action upon lawmakers’ return to Capitol Hill. The NDAA does not provide funding but authorizes spending, leaving future military funding to be addressed later in the year.
The approval of the NDAA by House Republicans signals a significant step in shaping defense policy and funding. As the Senate prepares to vote on its version, negotiations between the two chambers will be crucial to reach a final agreement.