The National Defense Authorization Act is a series of laws that specifies the annual budget for the U.S. Department of Defense. While support for the NDAA seems like something lawmakers could pass with little discussion, in recent years Democrats have begun to insert pet projects into the process.
"It's always been assumed that no matter what your stripe in Congress – liberal, conservative or libertarian – that you are for the defense of the nation," Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pennsylvania) said on Washington Watch last week.
"But over the past ten years, certainly since President [Barack] Obama was in office, it has been used as a tool for social engineering to establish another beach head of this woke leftist agenda," said Perry, a retired brigadier general in the Pennsylvania National Guard.
As a result, the military has paid for gender-reassignment surgery and, more recently, has dodged the Supreme Court's ruling in Dobbs last summer – which returned control of abortion to the states – by paying for military personnel stationed in conservative pro-life states to travel to left-leaning states to have abortions performed.
The latter move prompted Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama) to fight back by placing holds on Department of Defense promotions. Tuberville has been widely criticized but continues to stand firm in his position.
Last week the U.S. House fought back, passing its version of the NDAA with amendments that tied funding to the ouster of many projects considered "woke" by conservatives. Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Montana) told Washington Watch guest host Jody Hice that almost 1,400 amendments were discussed in some fashion.
The end result was passage by a 219-210 vote that saw four Democrats and four Republicans break ranks.
The Senate is working to finalize its version of NDAA. The House's bill includes $886 billion for national defense with a 5.2% pay raise for servicemembers.
A final bill is expected to receive a vote by both chambers this month.
Montana rep.: Just trying to have open, honest debate
"I told the Democrats in the first week of January I am trying to make sure that we have regular order, that we have open rules restored to the House of Representatives – because I know that our agenda, our arguments for limited government, for personal responsibility and for free markets will win over on the open field of play. That's what we saw happen," Rosendale said, alluding to the bill's passage.
One amendment proposed by Rosendale and passed into the House version means U.S. taxpayers will no longer fund gender-mutilation surgeries.
"Someone in the United States military who, under the best of conditions, doesn't know if they're a man or a woman … that's problematic. I cannot imagine under the pressures of war what that person would react like," Rosendale said.
The White House has screamed foul, connecting gender surgeries and abortion to "military readiness" and accusing House Republicans and Tuberville of disrespect for "the sacrifices of those who wear the uniform."
Defense: The final frontier
Congressman Perry, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, said the military seemed a logical destination for leftist social projects given where they have taken hold elsewhere in society.
"It's one of the final frontiers. The Marxists and the leftists and the people who are anti-Christianity, anti-God have done the march through the institutions of government, through the boardrooms of business and through the entertainment industry. Now they're assailing the police departments and law enforcement in general. And of course, the military," he said.
According to Perry, many in Congress were slow to react to the use of NDAA as a social experimentation platform. But in recent years, as promoters of that agenda recognize voting against the defense of America is difficult to explain back home, it has become almost a given.
"[Every year] we probably would see, out of 435 members of Congress, up to 350 or more people voting in favor of [the NDAA] because even though they disagreed with many of these new policies that are Leftist policies, they couldn't go home and say, 'I voted against supporting the troops, paying the troops and paying for our national defense.'"
Early on, Republicans may have winced; but, as noted by Perry, they didn't balk at the Democrats' use of NDAA to advance their policies. Now Democrats have become unrestrained – to the point of flaunting laws and policy in place – in their attempts to advance their initiatives.
For example, the Hyde Amendment, which took effect in 1980, bans the use of federal funds to pay for abortion with the exceptions of rape, incest or danger for the life of the mother. Tuberville says the Pentagon's policy of paying for travel and transportation and granting up to three weeks of paid leave for service members to travel out of state for an abortion violates that law.
"It had gotten so bad that many of us Republicans just simply no longer could support it. Now, of course, we're in the majority. We were expecting a strong conservative Republican national defense authorization to come out of the House Armed Services Committee," Perry said.
And that's exactly what has happened, according to columnist Suzanne Bowdey. She describes it as a "rock-solid" piece of legislation that "beats back President Biden's woke policies" – and demonstrates that House conservatives are "refusing to give an inch."