GOP and Dems wrestle over abortion issue in defense spending bill

GOP and Dems wrestle over abortion issue in defense spending bill

GOP and Dems wrestle over abortion issue in defense spending bill

The hot-button issue of abortion, and who pays for it, will be front and center when Congress members meet to hammer out one of their most important annual spending bills this week.

The House and Senate passed their separate versions of the National Defense Authorization Action, or NDAA, in the summer. Now key lawmakers are conferencing to come up with a single bill. They could possibly shape the final text by the end of the week.

The NDAA each year sets policies for defense agencies and provides guidance on how military funding can be spent.

Tuberville, Tommy (U.S. senator) Tuberville

Having Congress and the military on the same page is important, especially in today’s world as U.S. interests in the Middle East are under attack. Last week, two missiles were directed at a Navy warship off the coast of Yemen.

The 2023 NDAA authorized $886 billion in spending including servicemember pay raises of 5.2%. 

Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama) has spent most of the year blocking the mass approvals by up-or-down vote of Department of Defense promotions. It’s a strategy that Tuberville has said he would gladly end if the DOD would end its policy of paying for travel, lodging and leave time for military members and their dependents who seek to travel for abortion services. That policy, he insists, is illegal. 

House Republicans bracing for abortion fight

The House version of the NDAA prohibits military spending for abortion services. For Republicans and Democrats, the road to comprise looks long and rough.

“One of the things they're going to be going after is this ban on travel to have abortions,” Rep. Mark Alford (R-Missouri), one of the conferees, said on Washington Watch Monday. “We're anticipating they try to strip that out but we are going to be fighting for this. We're going to be fighting to end the abortion travel because it’s basically paying for the facilitation of an abortion, which is wrong." 

The controversial DOD policy went into effect after the Supreme Court in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in June of 2022 returned to states the authority to regulate abortion. That decision overturned Roe v. Wade which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973.

Alford said Republicans will also be fighting to strip funding from Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) and Critical Race Theory (CRT) programs in the final bill.

There are bills beyond the NDAA and time is becoming an issue, Alford told show host Tony Perkins.

“We’ve got the farm bill to do. All these programs that we have kind of shot ourselves in the foot over because of the firing of Kevin McCarthy and then having to find and hire a new Speaker of the House. It's put us back by about six weeks,” he said.

While the wheels of government grind at home, American troops try to stay safe overseas, and that’s becoming more difficult.

The Navy was responding to assist a commercial tanker when it was engaged off the Yemen coast. This is the latest in a number of attacks by Iranian proxies that have increased since the murderous rampage by Hamas terrorists against Israel on Oct. 7.

“It’s just more of the same, more poking the bear in the eye and seeing what the bear is going to do, and quite frankly, I think the assessment of Iran is that we're not going to do anything,” retired U.S. Army Gen. Jerry Boykin, the Family Research Council’s executive vice president, told Perkins.

Boykin said Iran sees weakness in U.S. leadership and with such a view will never bend to U.S. demands.

“From a practical perspective, just think about it. If you let someone take advantage of you or someone hits you, and you don't hit them back, what's the message that you just sent to them? It’s that you're afraid of them. That’s exactly what we’ve got,” Boykin said.

Boykin estimated that there have been 76 similar attacks against U.S. military interests since Oct. 7. U.S. response has lacked in both quantity and firepower.

Boykin, Jerry (FRC) Boykin

“We've had six almost meaningless responses to it. What does that tell these people that are out there wanting to humiliate us and wanting to bring us down as a nation? We've got to respond to the point that they feel it, and they know they don't want any more of it … and that is not the attitude of this administration,” Boykin said.

Every meaningless response further weakens America, Boykin insisted. 

“It’s making us more vulnerable because they are growing bolder and bolder every time we fail to respond to one of their escapades. All that's doing is telling them we are afraid, and we're not going to get down and dirty with them, so to speak. If we keep doing this, we are going to get hit, and we're going to get hit hard,” he said.