House Passes Defense Bill with Controversial Amendments on Abortion and Climate Policies

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The GOP-controlled House of Representatives passed the annual defense policy bill, including controversial amendments targeting Pentagon abortion policies and climate initiatives. Discover the implications and the next steps as the Senate prepares its version of the National Defense Authorization Act.

House Passes Defense Bill with Controversial Amendments on Abortion and Climate Policies
House Passes Defense Bill with Controversial Amendments on Abortion and Climate Policies

House Passes Pivotal Defense Bill with Culture War Amendments Targeting Abortion and Climate Policies

In a significant move, the GOP-controlled House of Representatives passed the annual defense policy bill on Friday. However, the legislation faces substantial hurdles, with little chance of becoming law in its current form. The bill, which traditionally garners bipartisan support, has been packed with conservative priorities that have sparked controversy and division.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is a critical piece of legislation that authorizes funding and sets policies for the Department of Defense. This year’s bill, amounting to over $895 billion, was passed by a mostly party-line vote of 217-199 in the House. Traditionally, the NDAA is a bipartisan effort aimed at ensuring the nation’s defense capabilities are robust and well-funded. However, this year’s bill has been dubbed as being filled with “poison pills” by Democrats due to the inclusion of various conservative amendments.

Controversial Amendments

Abortion Policy

One of the most contentious amendments added to the NDAA was proposed by Rep. Beth Van Duyne, R-Texas. This amendment aims to reverse a 2022 Pentagon rule that reimburses service members for out-of-state travel to obtain abortions. This rule was implemented to support service members who may be stationed in states with restrictive abortion laws, ensuring they have access to necessary medical care. The amendment has been met with strong opposition from Democrats and women’s rights advocates, who argue that it undermines reproductive rights and access to healthcare.

Climate Initiatives

Another major point of contention is the targeting of the Biden administration’s climate initiatives. Republicans have included provisions in the bill that seek to roll back efforts to address climate change within the Department of Defense. This includes funding cuts and restrictions on initiatives aimed at reducing the military’s carbon footprint and increasing its resilience to climate-related impacts. These provisions have drawn criticism from environmental groups and Democrats who emphasize the importance of addressing climate change as a national security issue.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Programs

The bill also targets diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs within the federal government. Provisions aimed at reducing or eliminating funding for these programs have been included, reflecting a broader conservative push against what they perceive as “woke” policies. Proponents of DEI programs argue that they are essential for fostering an inclusive and equitable environment within the military and federal workforce.

Dead-on-Arrival in the Senate

The amendments added by House Republicans are unlikely to survive in the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats. The Senate is working on its own version of the NDAA, which is expected to be less partisan and more in line with traditional bipartisan support. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has indicated that the Senate will strip out the controversial provisions when it takes up the bill.

Support for Service Members

Despite the controversies, some parts of the House bill received widespread support. The NDAA includes a nearly 20% pay raise for junior enlisted troops and significant investments aimed at improving resources for service members. This includes funding for military infrastructure, housing, and healthcare services. House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., emphasized the positive aspects of the bill, stating that it would support service members and ensure they enjoy a high quality of life. However, Johnson also highlighted the bill’s focus on “lethality,” which aligns with the conservative additions to the bill.

Bipartisan Tensions

The addition of conservative amendments has strained the bipartisan nature of the NDAA. Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, praised his Republican counterpart, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., for initially working in a bipartisan manner. However, Smith criticized the last-minute additions of controversial amendments, stating that they turned the bill into a “monument to bigotry” rather than a collaborative effort to support the military.

Immigration and Foreign Policy

Not all the amendments were related to domestic culture wars. Reps. Brian Mast, R-Fla., and Jodey Arrington, R-Texas, led an amendment that prohibits any funding for the Department of Defense to use planes to transport Palestinian refugees into the U.S. This amendment reflects broader concerns within the GOP regarding immigration and national security.

Looking Ahead

The passage of the NDAA in the House is just the first step in a lengthy legislative process. The Senate will now take up its version of the bill, and significant changes are expected. The two chambers will then need to reconcile their differences in a conference committee before a final bill can be sent to President Biden for his signature. Given the substantial differences between the House and Senate versions, particularly regarding the controversial amendments, reaching a consensus will be challenging.


The passage of the NDAA in the House, laden with conservative amendments, highlights the deep partisan divides in Congress. While the bill includes important provisions to support service members and ensure national defense, the inclusion of contentious amendments targeting abortion policy, climate initiatives, and DEI programs has overshadowed its primary purpose. As the Senate takes up its version of the bill, the focus will be on stripping out these controversial provisions to restore the NDAA to its traditional bipartisan roots. The outcome will determine the future of U.S. defense policy and the ability of Congress to work together in support of the nation’s armed forces.

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