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House passes defense bill after adopting controversial amendments targeting abortion policy and other issues

by Jamal Harris
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Originally Published: 14 JUL 23 06:26 ET

Updated: 14 JUL 23 11:03 ET

By Haley Talbot and Clare Foran, CNN

(CNN) — The House voted Friday to pass a sweeping defense policy bill following a contentious debate and the adoption of controversial amendments that touched on hot-button social issues.

The addition of amendments pushed by conservative hardliners related to abortion policy and transgender health care access as well as targeting diversity and inclusion programs infuriated Democrats and led to push back from some moderate Republicans – and will now set up a clash with the Senate.

The House-passed bill will still need to be reconciled with the Democratic-controlled Senate.

The move to allow the contentious amendment votes marked a major concession by GOP leaders to conservatives hardliners – and may be a preview of legislative fights to come.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, defended the strategy of allowing controversial amendments put forward by the right flank, telling CNN’s Manu Raju that members “actually have a voice with what the bill will look like at the very end. It doesn’t predetermine what will be in the bill.”

In a scathing statement, the three House Democratic leaders attacked Republicans for pushing the defense bill to the right.

The bill, known as the National Defense Authorization Act, sets the policy agenda and authorizes funding for the Department of Defense and is considered critical, must-pass legislation.

The House voted until nearly midnight on Thursday night dealing with a slew of amendments, including adopting a controversial provision eliminating diversity, equity and inclusion programs and staff in the Department of Defense, a tough pill to swallow for Democrats and a win for conservative hardliners.

Rep. Ralph Norman, a Republican from South Carolina, offered the measure that would eliminate all Pentagon DEI programs and personnel. In dramatic fashion the amendment initially failed 216-216 but was considered again and passed 214-213.

Another high-profile amendments that was adopted by the House earlier Thursday evening would prohibit the secretary of defense from paying for or reimbursing expenses relating to abortion services.

Many Democrats made clear ahead of the vote that if the amendment was included as part of the defense bill, they would be unlikely to support final passage.

The Pentagon’s abortion policy has come under an intense spotlight recently as GOP Sen. Tommy Tuberville has protested it by blocking military nominations and confirmations from quick passage in the chamber.

The House also passed an amendment that would bar a health care program for service members from covering hormone treatments for transgender individuals and gender confirmation surgeries.

Colorado conservative Rep. Lauren Boebert’s amendment to block military schools from purchasing or having “pornographic and radical gender ideology books” in their libraries also passed.

In an overwhelming vote, the House failed to adopt an amendment banning cluster munitions from being sold or transferred to Ukraine. GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia offered the amendment, which failed 147-276.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

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