House Rules Committee finalizes amendments to defense bill

By Tony Bertuca / July 13, 2023 at 11:03 AM

The House Rules Committee has approved 360 amendments to the annual defense authorization bill that will be considered for votes on the floor, including politically controversial measures Democrats say would keep them from supporting the legislation.

The committee Wednesday night voted to include 80 amendments, many of which are related to abolishing the Defense Department’s policies on diversity initiatives, climate change mitigation and leave and travel benefits for servicemembers seeking abortion services. On Tuesday night, the committee voted to include 290 non-controversial amendments. Both measures passed by party-line votes of 9-4. More than 1,500 amendments were proposed.

The bill, which authorizes $886 billion in total national defense spending, including a 5.2% pay raise for the military, passed out of the House Armed Services Committee by a vote of 58-1, with Democratic lawmakers saying they would not vote for the final product if it included some of the amendments championed by conservative Republicans.

House Rules Committee Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) said he believes lawmakers made a “big step forward in the process” by allowing the amendments to be considered for floor votes.

“We’ll see what happens,” he said.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-AL) and Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) have said they believe the bill will need to be bipartisan to pass the House, which is expected to vote this week.

The decision to include the “anti-woke” amendments could be seen as a risky move by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) that, if successful, would appease GOP hardliners without alienating too many Republicans and Democrats who could come together to vote down some of the more controversial amendments on the floor. Many Democrats, however, have said they will not support the bill if the amendments are included.

Notably, the Rules Committee voted down an amendment by Ranking Member Jim McGovern (D-MA) that would have sent to the floor the version of the bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support by the Armed Services Committee without any amendments.

McGovern called many of the GOP-backed amendments “garbage,” but told Republicans: “You’re in charge, you can do whatever the hell you want.”

His amendment was voted down 4-9 on party lines.