House Republicans face dilemma over edgy amendments to defense bill

The House Republicans will have to choose between blocking amendments that would undermine bipartisan support or voting on topics that might turn the bill into a partisan message bill.

The Pentagon Policy Bill, also known by the name National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), would authorize $895 Billion in defense spending during fiscal 2025. It includes policies that will improve pay and quality-of-life for servicemen. The bill was approved by the House Armed Services Committee last month with a vote of 57-1.

Republicans must resist the temptation to pass an array of culture war amendments that touch on topics like abortion, transgender healthcare, diversity initiatives and climate change. House Republicans passed amendments to the defense bill in the past year that shifted a bipartisan committee bill into a partisan one on the floor.

Democrats warn Republicans against partisan tactics in this election year.


Hakeem Jeffries (New York Democrat) told reporters that he was concerned about the possibility of extreme Republicans trying to ram their right-wing ideology into the American people’s throats, criminalize abortion or limit the ability of women serving in the military to make their reproductive health care choices. If they continue down this road, it would be a waste of time and money.

Many Republicans claim they do not need bipartisan support, and that passing a conservative measure in the House will help them gain more leverage when negotiating with the Senate about a final product.

Chip Roy, a Texas Republican, said, “I think, fundamentally, you should always start with what we said we would do as Republicans.” Send that message to the American people, and when it comes down to it decide what you want to do. If all you do is tell Democrats “Oh, don’t worry — wink wink — We’re going strike a deal” you will never have the leverage to achieve anything.

The House Rules Committee meets Tuesday to determine the parameters of floor debate for the Defense Bill, including the votes that will be taken on the 1,357 amendements filed by members.

Mr. Roy is a member of the Rules Committee and believes that many amendments important to conservatives, such as those passed last year, will receive floor votes.

Republicans have proposed amendments to the bill that, if passed, could alter its bipartisan character. These include:

Marjorie Taylor Greene, Georgia Representative, has filed a bill to prohibit funding for abortions.

Rep. Beth Van Duyne, Texas, has filed a bill to repeal a Pentagon memo from 2022 that authorized paid leaves and reimbursement of travel expenses for servicemembers seeking abortions.

Matt Rosendale, a Montana congressman, has filed a bill to prohibit military health plans from paying for hormone treatments or sex reassignment surgery.

Rep. Lauren Boebert (Colorado) filed a bill to reinstate former President Donald Trump’s executive order that prohibits transgender people from serving in military service, with limited exceptions.

Multiple members have filed versions to abolish the Defense Department Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Rep. Eric Burlison, Missouri, has filed a bill to block-fund diversity, equity, and inclusion policies.

M. Roy filed a bill to prohibit the use of funding for President Biden’s climate executive orders.

The Republicans’ decisions on amendments are influenced by the narrow majority they have. The GOP cannot afford to have more than two votes cast against party lines.

Last year, Republicans only had two defections to repeal the Pentagon memo on abortion policy. There was only one defector on the same amendment by Mr. Rosendale that prohibited coverage for transgender healthcare. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat, was the lone Democrat who voted for these amendments in 2013.

After adopting these and other GOP-favored amendements, the defense act passed with a mostly partisan vote of 219-210, with four defections each from each party, effectively canceling each other out.

The bill that was reported by the committee this year includes several policies to improve the quality of life of service members. These include a pay increase of 19.5% for junior members and an additional 4.5% for other service members. The measure would also increase the housing allowance so that it covers the average rental rate in the local area, improve military housing units and expand access for medical and child care.

In a statement released after the committee’s markup, Mike Rogers, Alabama Republican and Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, stated that the most important investment is in our people, the foundation of our military. “No servicemember should be worried about how to pay the bills, put food on their table or have a safe place to live,” said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers.