House just passed a controversial defense policy bill that limits abortion access, transgender health care for military. Here’s how Colorado delegates voted.

Liam James Doyle/NPR
US Capitol Building.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the annual defense policy bill, 219 to 210, Friday.  Colorado’s delegation — like the House as a whole — split largely, but not entirely, along party lines after Republicans added several controversial culture war amendments. 

The bill would authorize a $866 billion defense bill that includes a 5.2 percent pay raise for military service members.

Of the Colorado House Delegation Republican Reps. Lauren Boebert and Doug Lamborn voted for the bill. GOP Rep. Ken Buck voted against it, as did Democratic Reps. Yadira Caraveo, Jason Crow, Yadira Caraveo, Diana DeGette, Joe Neguse and Brittany Pettersen.

Historically, this bill usually has passed with strong bipartisan support, but many Democrats came out against it after several hot-button amendments were added. Those measures range from blocking the Defense Department’s current abortion policy and climate issues to targeting military diversity programs and preventing coverage of transgender health care.

Crow, an Army veteran, came out against the bill Thursday night after the amendment to restrict abortion access was passed. After the fall of Roe, the Defense Department said it would provide time off and pay for travel, if service members or their family needed to leave the state where they’re stationed for abortion or other reproductive health care.

“The Republicans chose to put their culture wars in front of our national security and our troops,” said Crow, who had worked to make this a bipartisan bill. “I learned in my service to our country that you can’t separate our national values from our national security. They go hand-in-hand. And this bill actually attacks our military service members and their families by undermining critical access to health care, to abortion service, [and] by attacking transgender families.”

Prior to the bill’s final passage, members of the hard right Freedom Caucus, and some of their allies, praised the amendments that moved the National Defense Authorization Act further right.

Caitlyn Kim/CPR News
Rep. Lauren Boebert and other hard right congressional members praised inclusion of several culture issue amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act. She described the bill as "the most conservative NDAA that I've ever had the pleasure of working with."

“We are here to let the American people know we’re just getting started,” said Western Slope Rep. Lauren Boebert.

“We dealt a major blow to the Biden regime's efforts to politicize our military by defunding his policy of using DoD funds to traffic service members out of red states so they can receive taxpayer-funded abortions,” she said. “When we use the leverage the American people have given us, we can deliver on the conservative promises we all got here on.”

Boebert succeeded in adding an amendment to prohibit Defense Department schools from purchasing and having “pornographic and radical gender ideology books in their libraries”. It passed largely along party lines with two Democrats, Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas and Rep. Donald Davis of North Carolina, voting for it.

Conservative GOP Rep. Buck said he supports national defense and agrees with several amendments added to the bill but he voted against the final package “for one simple reason: spending.”

“Our county is careening toward fiscal ruin, and Congress continues to turn a blind eye by passing these massive spending packages with no attention to their cost or efficacy,” he said in a statement.

Pettersen was disappointed that the bill, which came out of committee with strong bipartisan support, took a partisan turn. “While I support increasing pay for our troops, supporting our military, this, unfortunately, isn’t a bill that should be passed out of the House.”

The Democratic-controlled Senate is expected to start the process of passing its version of the defense policy bill next week. The two chambers will then have to hash out the differences or risk not passing a bill that has passed each year for more than six decades.

“I’m going to work very closely with the Senate to fix this. We need a national defense bill,” said Crow. “And it’s clear the Senate is going to have to fix this because of what House Republicans decided to do.”

Overall, Rep. Doug Lamborn, who sits on the Armed Services Committee, thought the bill made good progress on core defense issues like hypersonics. “I like the bill the way it is now, but I think the Senate is going to have a big say in the final product,” he warned.

Amendments from Colorado Congress members

While the cultural amendments got the most press, Colorado congress members got several non-controversial amendments included in the bill.

Boebert and Lamborn got language approving the closure of the Pueblo Chemical Depot included via amendment. Colorado Senators did the same for their chamber’s version of the bill, which bodes well for the policy making it to the final bill.

She also got an added amendment that would get a report on higher ed institutions that have both gotten DOD funding and hosted a Confucius Institute funded by the People’s Republic of China.

Crow and Neguse got an amendment included that would make the Pentagon develop a strategy to address medical research and development gaps stemming from traumatic injuries across the chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) spectrum.

Neguse and Buck both had several amendments included. Neguses’ ranged from housing accommodations to helping service members transition to civilian life. Buck’s included from tracking parts for F-35 aircrafts and managing artificial intelligence entities across the Pentagon.

Lamborn, who chairs the strategic forces subcommittee, got an amendment on Pentagon strategy for Precision Strike Missile production capacity and production included. 

Caraveo got two amendments included. One would help service members leaving the military learn about careers in agriculture. Another would require a Pentagon report about the transition process for service members with health care backgrounds and how many join the Medical Reserve.

Pettersen also saw two of the amendments she led make it on to the House version. One would require guidelines for how family members can receive the personal effects of a service member if they were originally disposed of incorrectly. The other, supported by Colorado Reps. Crow, Lamborn and Neguse, focuses on improving medical support during arctic operations.

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