Oklahoma Lawmakers React to U.S. House Passing Defense Authorization Bill

Washington Bureau-Alex Cameron - July 18, 2023 6:36 am


Oklahoma’s congressional delegation has only good things to say about the defense authorization bill the U.S. House passed last week, despite it not having the strong bipartisan support that the measure normally has.

The House version of the FY 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) advanced out of committee on a 58-1 vote, the support from both Republicans and Democrats was clearly overwhelming. But the adoption of a slew of amendments from hardline conservatives forced all but four Democrats to back off when the final bill came to the floor Friday morning.

Four Republicans also voted no, resulting in a tally of 219-210. All five Oklahoma members voted yes.

“There are some really good things in this measure,” said Rep. Josh Brecheen (R-OK2) in an interview last week.

The bill’s $886 billion price tag complies with the limit set by the Fiscal Responsibility Act and matches the allocation President Biden first proposed back in March.

It would amount to an approximately 3 percent increase over current year funding. Among the items both sides agree on are a 5.2 percent pay hike for service members and billions of dollars to keep pace with China’s military modernization.

Thanks to a long list of controversial amendments, not all of which passed, the legislation would end the Pentagon’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs, end DoD’s provision of transgender healthcare, and end the policy that, post-Dodd, is helping service members get abortions.

“If you’re in a pro-life state at a duty station,” said Congressman Brecheen, “you can go into a pro-choice state to get an abortion and the DoD, using your federal tax dollars, is going to reimburse you for that travel — that’s a perversion of the rule of law.”

The Department of Justice last fall determined that, in fact, this policy does not conflict with the law. The Pentagon cannot pay for abortions and cannot permit abortions to be performed at any DoD medical facilities (except in certain emergency situations) but Congress, when it last addressed the issue 25 years ago, made no prohibition, the Attorney General found, against covering ancillary expenses for someone who must travel to another state for reproductive care.

Still, Brecheen and the delegation say the amended NDAA is what our military needs.

“Under the leadership of Joe Biden,” said Rep. Kevin Hern (R-OK1) in a statement, “our military has been injected with woke ideology at the expense of our ability to combat China.”

“This bill goes above and beyond by rejecting ideological indoctrination initiatives,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK4) said, “requiring the Pentagon to remain focused on readiness and preparedness.”

Democrats blasted Republicans for adopting the far-right amendments, which they say puts the bill — and thus national security — at risk.

“Rather than have a bipartisan process, which is what we should be doing with NDAA,” Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA), House Democratic Caucus Chair, told reporters last week, “we now have the most extreme members of their caucus trying to eliminate funding for Ukraine and threaten pay raises and housing increases that our service members should receive.”

The real question now is whether any of these amendments will survive the eventual negotiation with the Democrat-controlled Senate, which begins consideration of its version of the NDAA this week.


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