Jul 14, 2023 - Politics & Policy

House GOP passes key defense bill with abortion restrictions

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images.

The House on Friday voted largely along party lines to pass key legislation setting military spending levels and policy.

Why it matters: The bill was amended to include controversial conservative language on abortion, transgender care, diversity programs and book bans.

Driving the news: The House voted 219-210 to pass the National Defense Authorization Act.

  • Reps. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Ken Buck (R-Colo.), Eli Crane (R-Ariz.), all Freedom Caucus members, voted against the bill along with conservative Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.).
  • Reps. Don Davis (D-N.C.), Jared Golden (D-Maine), Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez (D-Wash.) and Gabe Vasquez (D-N.M.), all moderates from swing districts, voted for it.
  • The bill typically passes by wide bipartisan margins.

The backdrop: The bill passed out of the Armed Services Committee by a lopsided 58-1 vote.

  • But Democrats, incensed by Republicans passing an amendment to block a Biden administration policy allowing the Pentagon to cover abortion-related expenses, largely came out against the final bill.
  • Some Freedom Caucus members were upset their amendments restricting aid to Ukraine failed, but most came around to supporting the bill.

What's next: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Thursday that the upper chamber will begin voting on their version of the NDAA next Tuesday, with votes on a "reasonable number" of amendments.

  • The Senate's product is likely to be markedly more moderate than the House's version.
  • The bill will then go to a conference committee, where negotiators from the two chambers will hammer out a compromise measure.

The big picture: This could end up putting House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in a similarly difficult situation as the debt limit.

Editor's note: This article has been corrected to reflect that Rep. Thomas Massie is not a Freedom Caucus member.

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