US House adds abortion restrictions to defense policy bill

Legislators and reproductive rights activists announced new abortion-rights legislation at the Georgia Capitol in January. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Legislators and reproductive rights activists announced new abortion-rights legislation at the Georgia Capitol in January. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

WASHINGTON — Led by Republicans, the U.S. House signed off on prohibiting the Department of Defense from paying for or reimbursing travel expenses for service members who obtain abortions.

The amendment added to the National Defense Authorization Act, a bill that determines military policy for the next year, will make it harder for the overall package to pass on the House floor. And it sets up a showdown with the Senate, where the legislation expected to cross in that Democratic-led chamber is unlikely to include such anti-abortion language.

Democrats panned the amendment’s passage after a 221-213 vote, which was supported by all but two Republicans. Every Democrat but one voted against the measure. Georgia’s delegation split strictly along party lines.

Democratic Whip Katherine Clark, who is from Massachusetts, said the military policy bill was being hijacked by anti-abortion conservatives.

“This year, the MAGA majority is using our national defense bill to get one step closer to the only thing they really care about: a nationwide abortion ban,” she said.

The abortion amendment was among a series of controversial measures House members passed Thursday after far-right lawmakers introduced amendments hitting on culture war topics such as diversity and inclusion programs, care for transgender people and climate change. The Republican majority signed off on prohibiting the use of federal funds to establish diversity officers at the Department of Defense or to pay for transgender service members’ sex reassignment surgeries and gender hormone treatments.

The list of amendments also included a few that had bipartisan support or were backed by Democrats.

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene sponsored three proposals, and the House overwhelming voted down the first two Thursday evening. One amendment would have halted the creation of a Center of Excellence in Ukraine, and the other would have stripped out $300 million in funding for Ukraine in its war against Russia.

In floor debate on her amendment, the Rome Republican said the military’s resources should not be used to fight a foreign war.

“No money funding and fueling the Ukraine war belongs in our Defense Authorization Act because this is for our nation — not for another nation, not for Ukraine,” she said. “Ukraine is not the 51st state.”

Her third item would reverse President Joe Biden’s decision to transfer cluster munitions to Ukraine, and it was set for a vote either late Thursday or early Friday. The House is slated to vote on the full amended package Friday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the Senate is advancing a version that won’t include much of the language added by House Republicans. That will make it harder for the two chambers to reach an agreement in hopes of passing legislation by the end of the year to preserve a streak of annual passage of the NDAA, which started with the first bill in 1961.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter supported the abortion and transgender care amendments. Prior to those votes, he said these types of proposals will make it harder for the package to gain final passage on the House floor.

“I think obviously some of them are going to cause us to lose some Democratic votes that we probably need,” he said. “So yeah, I’m concerned.”