The U.S. House of Representatives passed the $886 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2024 on Friday with several controversial amendments including bans on the military’s spending on abortion travel and transgender surgeries and treatments.

The spending package, which sets the military’s budget for the next year, passed the House in a nearly party-line vote, 219-210. Four Democrats joined the Republicans in voting for the defense package, while four Republicans sided with the Democrats in voting against it.

The NDAA is a must-pass spending package that normally receives large bipartisan support. However, the 2024 NDAA has several controversial amendments that made the vote largely fall along party lines.

What are the amendments? 

One amendment, introduced by Texas Republican Rep. Ronny Jackson and passed Thursday night, forces the military to end its program paying for service members’ abortion travel. Under a policy laid out by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the military has been granting paid leave and reimbursing service members’ travel costs to obtain abortions.

National Right to Life celebrated the passage of Jackson’s amendment to the NDAA in a statement obtained by CNA on Friday.

“We praise House GOP leadership for their work in preventing taxpayer funds from illegally being used to pay for or reimburse expenses related to abortion travel,” said National Right to Life President Carol Tobias. “The Biden administration has shown repeatedly that it thinks taxpayers are a never-ending source of funds for its abortion agenda. The Jackson Amendment in the NDAA prevents the Biden administration from circumventing established law.”

Another amendment, introduced by Montana Republican Rep. Matthew Rosendale and also passed Thursday night, mandates the military to stop using taxpayer dollars to pay for transgender surgeries and treatments. 

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The pro-life amendment and amendment against transgender surgeries received almost unanimous support from House Republicans.

One other controversial amendment that was adopted in this year’s House version of the NDAA eliminated the military’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) program.  

What’s next?

In a Friday statement, Texas Republican Rep. Chip Roy said that though the NDAA’s passage demonstrates the GOP’s unity around conservative principles, it’s too early to declare victory.

Roy said that it is “critical to remember that Republicans showed this same kind of principled unity on the Limit, Save, Grow Act but ultimately blinked in negotiations on the debt ceiling. We must stand strong this time and resist the temptation to capitulate to the White House or the Democrat-controlled Senate.” 

With the NDAA having cleared the House, the Senate must consider its version of the package, after which the president must then sign. 

Jennifer Popik, director of federal legislation for National Right to Life, told CNA that though “the inclusion of this important [pro-life] amendment in the House would be a critical first step in reversing this egregious Biden DOD policy,” the “climate in the Senate is more difficult.” 

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“Any action on pro-life issues in the Senate is an uphill battle,” Popik explained. “The reality is that the Senate — and the White House — are in the control of pro-abortion extremists.”

Though Popik said that National Right to Life would be working with senators “to make sure the pro-life language from the House NDAA is part of the final bill,” she noted that “Chuck Schumer and other pro-abortion leaders in the Senate want unlimited abortion paid for with taxpayer dollars.”

Though the Senate is majority Democrat, Republicans in December were able to successfully pressure Democrats and President Joe Biden into significant concessions in the 2023 NDAA, most notably ending the military’s COVID vaccine mandate. 

And what’s going on with military promotions?

Since March Alabama Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has been blocking high-ranking military officials from receiving promotions until the Department of Defense ends its program paying for abortion travel. 

Though Biden has decried Tuberville’s hold on promotions, the Alabama senator said in a June opinion piece in The Washington Times that the “hold is not affecting readiness.”

Tuberville said that he would drop his hold on promotions if Democrats abide by laws banning taxpayer funding of abortion services.

“If Mr. Austin won’t suspend the memo [providing for military spending on abortion travel],” Tuberville said, “then it is clear that he must think facilitating abortion is more important than getting these promotions pushed through.”