McCarthy is already working hard to avoid potential conservative defections. His whip team met Thursday morning with about a half-dozen conservatives — mostly members of the House Freedom Caucus — who are concerned about the bill and trying to gauge what needs to be done to win their support, overcoming internal disputes.
Abortion isn’t the only tough debate Republicans will have on the Pentagon bill. The House has dealt with issues of race, climate change and transgender troops in recent rounds of votes.
The council also accepted the representative. Matt Rosendale(R-Mont.) proposal to end transplant surgeries and hormone treatments for disabled troops in a 222-211 vote.
But representative. Marjorie Taylor Green(R-Ga.)’s proposal to cut $300 million in military aid from the bill was easily defeated with strong support from Democrats and Republicans.
Jackson and other conservatives have torn apart abortion policy, ignoring federal laws that prevent taxpayer funding for most abortions, even though the government does not pay for the procedure.
“Taxpayer money goes directly to support abortions and anyone in this room who says different is blatantly lying to the American people,” Jackson said. “Taxpayer-funded travel for an abortion is actually taxpayer-funded abortion.”
Jackson’s action would harm the health care of female troops, and last year’s Roe v. After Wade’s defense was struck down, a cavalcade of Democrats fired back, saying it was a precursor to an attempt to ban abortion at the federal level.
“They present culture wars over national security,” Rep. Eliza Slatkin (D-Mich.) said. “Republicans won’t stop until they get a federal ban” on abortion, he said.
The House approved a rule Thursday and began debate on 80 more amendments, many from Republicans, that take back Biden-era personnel policies that the GOP argues should be diverted from the Pentagon’s top battles. That comes on top of 289 mostly controversial amendments lawmakers considered on Wednesday.
Leaders could pass the bill this week as originally planned, after some Republicans wondered if a deadlock would kill the legislation if McCarthy could hold his party together.
But conservatives still make heads sweat. Members of the Freedom Caucus held off voting on governance until the last minute.
However, the move to deliver conservative policy votes was ultimately a gamble by McCarthy and his team. Republican leaders are reassuring conservatives — who have already threatened McCarthy’s speakership — by allowing them to vote on their amendments so they won’t block the bill from advancing to the full House on a procedural vote. GOP leaders needed more difficult proposals to vote in the lower chamber to avoid Democrats jumping ship and killing the chances of the defense bill passing. The abortion referendum changed that.
Democrats telegraphed that they would not support the $886 billion defense bill if Republicans loaded it with tough regulations. They ripped GOP leaders for catering to their right wing and avoiding the bipartisan support the legislation would normally receive.
“This bill passed the Armed Services Committee 58-1,” the representative said. Jim McGovern Massachusetts, the top Democrat on the Rules Committee. “Looking at the amendments made to the order, I would be surprised if it didn’t pass the House.”
“To have a small minority of MAGA extremists dictating how we’re going to proceed is outrageous,” McGovern said.
Representative Matt Gates (R-Fla.) doubts the commitment of Democrats to vote against the bill, even if some of the tougher conservative amendments are adopted. Gaetz, a vocal opponent of more aid to Ukraine, is betting that Democrats don’t want to go on record as voting in favor of Kiev on the bill.
“Democrats for Ukraine’s money are like scratching a kitten,” Gates said. Other proposals may also sway the debate.
Several amendments to Good Pentagon diversity programs are included in the package, including Gaetz’s proposal to block diversity, equity and inclusion training.
Conservatives will have a chance to dive back into the fight over removing the names of Confederate leaders from military bases and other military property within a year of a congressionally mandated commission submitting its renaming recommendations.
Party leaders made representations. Bob Good
(R-Va.) vote on his amendment, even though many installations have already adopted their new names.
Of the 80 amendments, 70 are Republican-sponsored, four Democratic and six bipartisan. Most of the 1,500 amendments filed were dropped.
Democrats lamented several priorities that were left on the cutting room floor, including the Rep.’s marquee amendment. Sarah Jacobs (D-Calif.) would have broadly banned the transfer of cluster munitions to the United States overseas, protesting Biden’s decision to send them to Ukraine. This proposal was also supported by Getz.
Republicans lashed out at the amendment, and Green voted instead on his proposal to restrict the supply of cluster bombs to Ukraine.