House defense bill starts -- and stalls -- debate over amendments

By Tony Bertuca / July 12, 2023 at 10:47 AM

The House Rules Committee last night voted to partly advance debate on the annual defense authorization bill, though the legislation cannot proceed to a floor vote without additional consideration of politically controversial amendments championed by GOP conservatives.

The committee voted 9-4 to proceed with the defense authorization bill in bifurcated fashion, ruling in order 290 amendments deemed non-controversial. However, the committee still needs to reconvene to make determinations on other amendments related to halting the Pentagon’s policies for boosting diversity, equity and inclusion, mitigating climate change and providing leave and travel benefits for servicemembers seeking abortion services.

The panel has not yet announced when it intends to reconvene.

Committee Ranking Member Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) blamed Republican hardliners for stalling the bill.

“I would be remiss if I didn't say that we are here at 11 p.m. because once again Republicans are fighting with Republicans in a back room about how to make what should have been a bipartisan bill into a hyperpartisan bill,” he said. “The majority is trying to load up every divisive issue under the sun into what is supposed to be a bill about national security.”

Earlier in the day, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-AL) and Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) appeared together before the Rules Committee and said they were presenting a bipartisan bill that passed by a vote of 58-1.

“The bill before you today includes only provisions squarely within the jurisdiction of the Armed Services Committee,” Rogers said. “Whether that policy continues as this bill moves to the floor is now up to you all.”

Smith said that many of the GOP amendments before the Rules Committee were too partisan to garner any Democratic support.

“This bill needs to be bipartisan to pass,” Smith said, adding that he hoped the legislation sent to the floor would be “something in the neighborhood of the bipartisan bill we passed out of committee.”

Many of the 290 amendments ruled in order required reports from the Pentagon. One such amendment that came from Reps. Don Bacon (R-NE) and Seth Moulton (D-MA) would require a Pentagon budget report that provides a five-year projection of divestments the department plans to make for major weapon systems.

An amendment ruled in order and offered by Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA), vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, would authorize the Pentagon to establish reserves of long-lead items required to accelerate munitions deliveries.