What to Know in Washington: NDAA Sparks GOP Culture War Clash

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The House is slated for final passage of the annual defense authorization bill today after a small group of GOP hardliners won on a slew of “culture war” amendments that would essentially ban the Pentagon’s abortion travel and leave policies, transgender troop care, and curtail diversity efforts at the Defense Department.

The culture war fights imperil GOP lawmakers from New York and other competitive regions and once again thrust Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) into a political storm as the House considers legislation setting Pentagon policy and prescribing military spending levels for the next year.

Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg

The fractures over the $866 billion National Defense Authorization Act provide fresh warning of turmoil ahead in the struggle to fund the government before a shutdown that could come as soon as Oct. 1.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) complained the bill is being blown up “because of a fringe group in the Republican conference that can’t get enough in terms of their extremist agenda.”

As of Thursday, McCarthy and his top lieutenants were still unsure how much Republican support they could count on for the legislation and how much they would need to rely on Democrats, according to one lawmaker involved in their closed-door conversations who insisted on anonymity to describe the deliberations.

Some of these votes could jeopardize swing-district lawmakers, particularly those in districts President Joe Biden won in 2020. Democrats in some areas already have been seeking ads and billboards to define them as less independent, and more extreme, out of step with their districts. Erik Wasson and Billy House lay out the points of contention.

On abortion, the House Thursday approved a provision by a mostly party-line vote of 221-213, which all but one House Democrat opposed, to put an end to the Pentagon’s policy offering military members and their families time off and travel allowances to seek an abortion or other reproductive care, Roxana Tiron reports.

The House defeated conservative Republicans’ effort to cut off security assistance to Ukraine, cementing a wall of support across both political parties for Ukraine’s fight against Russia’s invasion. The votes on the Ukraine amendments became a test for congressional support as isolationist members of the GOP ratcheted up calls to reduce or end aid to Kyiv. Tiron has more.

House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Democratic Whip Katherine Clark, and Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar all say that they will oppose the NDAA, Janine Phakdeetham reports. In a joint statement, they said that Republicans “have turned what should be a meaningful investment in our men and women in uniform into an extreme and reckless legislative joyride.”


  • The president and first lady will depart the White House and travel to Camp David around 1:30 p.m.


  • The House resumes work on the annual defense policy bill.
  • Senators are out and reconvene next Tuesday.

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Influence, Probes and 2024

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To contact the reporters on this story: Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com; Giuseppe Macri in Washington at gmacri@bgov.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kayla Sharpe at ksharpe@bloombergindustry.com

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