House Republicans Pass Defense Bill Packed with Culture War Policies

House Republicans Pass Defense Bill Packed with Culture War Policies


The House passed an $895 billion defense policy bill on Friday, narrowly approving a measure that Republicans loaded with controversial culture war amendments via a largely party-line vote that sets up a clash with Senate Democrats.

The 217-199 House vote saw just three Republicans vote against the bill and just six Democrats vote for it. The annual measure, known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), lays out policy and recommended funding levels for the Defense Department.

“The threats facing our nation are more complex and challenging than anything we’ve encountered before,” Republican Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. “To ensure that we stay ahead of our adversaries, the FY25 NDAA keeps the continued modernization of our nuclear deterrent on track, invests in our undersea capabilities, boosts innovation, and supports the capabilities our warfighters need to succeed on any future battlefield.”

Republican leaders also highlighted pay raises for the military, including a 19.5% increase for junior enlisted service members, and improvements in housing, healthcare and child care.

Democrats also supported those provisions, and the bill started out in a bipartisan fashion. It cleared the Armed Services Committee last month in a strongly bipartisan vote, 57-1. Republicans then piled on a slew of conservative policy riders targeting abortion access, transgender medical care and Pentagon diversity programs. Democrats oppose those provisions and argue that they demean service members and hurt the national defense.

Those culture war clashes mean that the House bill will go nowhere in the Senate, where lawmakers are working on their own version of the legislation. The Senate Armed Services Committee on Friday advanced its own version of the NDAA, which calls for an increased $923.3 billion in funding.

“Once again, the House Republican Majority has prioritized MAGA extremism over our national security and our military families. They have undermined a bipartisan national defense bill and warped it into another vehicle for their anti-abortion, anti-freedom, anti-equality agenda,” said House Democratic Whip Katherine Clark.

Republicans had also loaded up their version of last year’s NDAA with similar culture war measures. “The legislation was eventually ironed out with the Senate, with the upper chamber making concessions in order to boot out the abortion policy provisions,” The Hill notes. “A handful of culture war amendments did, however, make it into the final version.”

What’s next: Congress has passed the annual NDAA every year for more than six decades. To continue that streak, Republicans and Democrats will again have to come up with a compromise version of the legislation — one that will most likely exclude the House’s conservative policy provisions, which can’t get through the Senate.

Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, urged his colleagues this week to skip the partisan clashes and cut straight to the bipartisan final product. “Let’s just get there earlier this time, save ourselves the aggravation,” he said, per The Washington Post. “It’s where we’re going to wind up anyways, so why don’t we just go ahead and do it?”

Appropriations update: House Republicans continue to plow ahead on annual spending bills. The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday advanced the measures covering Defense; Financial Services and General Government; and the Legislative Branch. The committee also approved the Homeland Security and State and Foreign Operations bills this week.