The U.S. military budget bill that normally receives overwhelming bipartisan support had North Jersey House members voting along party lines when passed due to Republicans amendments against abortion, gender transition procedures and diversity training.
The House passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on a vote of 219 to 210 as extreme right House Republicans had pushed for the more controversial elements of the bill. The NDAA now moves to the Democratic-controlled Senate that will strip out the non-military elements of the legislation, where comments from House Republicans after passage are raising questions about whether a compromise can be reached that could be enacted into law this Fall.
Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, vowed that “we are not going to relent, we are not going to back down, we’re not going to give up on the cause that is righteous…(we) are going to use every single tool at our disposal” to defend the socially conservative elements of the bill.
Kean’s a Yes
Rep. Tom Kean, Jr. voted with his Republican colleagues to pass the amendments that prohibit the defense department from covering funding for abortion, gender transition, diversity and affirmative action programs, not allowing non-approved flags, such as LGBTQ+ Pride flags, to fly at military bases, and banning “pornographic and radical gender ideology books.”
“I commend the passage of the Fiscal Year 2024 National Defense Authorization Act. This critical legislation reinforces our commitment to national security, provides necessary resources for our armed forces, and supports our military personnel and their families,” said Kean in a statement after the vote.
Dem’s A No
North Jersey Dems—Reps. Josh Gottheimer, Rob Menendez, Bill Pascrell, Donald Payne and Mikie Sherrill—all voted against the amendments. Gottheimer urged the Senate to work with Dem House leadership to rollback the “far-right, extreme legislation” that takes away a service women’s right to access an abortion if they are stationed in states that do not protect a woman’s right to choose.
“Our brave servicemembers risk their lives every day to protect our nation, and it sickens me that anyone would prevent them from making personal, private health care decisions about their own bodies, lives, and futures,” said Gottheimer.
“Nearly half of our servicewomen are stationed in states that do not protect a woman’s right to choose. The extreme provision forced into the defense bill by the right-wing would prevent them from accessing an abortion, even in cases of rape and the life of the mother.
Sherrill, a former Navy helicopter pilot and Naval Academy graduate, said she casted a no vote with “a clear conscience…on this poor excuse for a bill that so severely harms our servicemembers.”
“The NDAA is historically a bipartisan piece of legislation, but Speaker (of the House Kevin) McCarthy has given the far right extremists everything they’ve asked for,” said Sherrill. “They’ve transformed this into a partisan bill that makes America weaker, not stronger…making our servicewomen pawns in their extreme anti-abortion agenda and is a stepping stone to larger bans, restrictions, and wholesale disregard for women’s healthcare in America.”
The stance from the 11th District Congresswoman follows her recent takedown of Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) as he continues holding up of military promotions over the Biden Administration’s actions in regard to abortion access.
Taking Tuberville’s to Task
“For the first time since 1859, we don’t have a Commandant of the Marine Corps. Sen. Tuberville’s personal political agenda leaves the Marine Corps without a leader and jeopardizes our national security,” said Sherrill during House testimony as she offered an amendments on the “dangerous tactics” Tuberville has taken to push his personal beliefs.
“For the first time in 59 years, on the brink of welcoming the first female Superintendent, the transition did not occur this summer. Sen. Tuberville’s crusade must end.”
While Sherrill took aim at Tuberville, Pascrell slammed the leadership of Speaker McCarthy for allowing the NDAA to become politicized as the bills were approved in committee almost unanimously before MAGA House members amendments were added.
“The inmates are running the asylum. After this week’s defense bill disaster, what else can you say?” said Pascrell. “The annual package to fund America’s defense should be straightforward and bipartisan. Instead, this bill was hijacked by extreme far-right Republicans as one more vehicle to bash diversity, ban books, steal women’s freedom, and yell about drag shows.”
“Republicans even tried to defund our support for Ukraine and protect memorials to Confederate traitors for heaven’s sake,” Pascrell added. “Kevin McCarthy allowed these zealots to take over so they don’t throw him out of on his ear. Another week wasted, Republicans continue to endanger American security.”
Payne slammed MAGA Republicans for showing “they would rather continue to push bigoted, racist and economically-irresponsible legislation than pay our brave soldiers, promote military commanders, and improve the safety and security of our country.”
“They continue to fight against the rights of women, the rights of LGBTQ+ Americans, and efforts to increase diversity throughout the military and our country. They should be ashamed to support this bill because it does not represent the interests of the American people.”