House Republicans weigh Pentagon funding battle over ‘woke’ military policies


The Pentagon is seen in Virginia.
The Pentagon is seen in Virginia. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

House Republicans weigh Pentagon funding battle over ‘woke’ military policies

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House Republicans are weighing an effort to tie next year’s funding for the Pentagon to demands that include ending the military’s vaccine mandate and increasing scrutiny of where U.S. aid to Ukraine has gone.

Conservatives in the House have pushed their fellow Republicans to punt a vote on the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act to January, when the GOP will control the lower chamber.

GOP congressional leaders have signaled they may be on board with the plan.


House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) suggested after Republicans held their leadership elections that he would work to hold up the defense spending bill until 2023.

“I’ve watched what the Democrats have done on many of these things, especially the NDAA — the wokeism that they want to bring in there,” McCarthy said earlier this month. “I actually believe the NDAA should hold up until the 1st of this year and let’s get it right.”

House lawmakers passed a version of the 2023 NDAA in July, with 149 Republicans joining most Democrats to advance the spending bill and defeat efforts to trim the Pentagon’s budget.

Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus unsuccessfully urged Republicans to oppose the bill over the summer to push for an end to the Pentagon’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Last month, they reiterated their demands in a letter to McCarthy and Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), calling on Republican lawmakers to delay passing a final version of the bill until Democrats meet a set of demands.

Those include ending “the contamination of our military by radical Leftist ‘woke’ ideologies and the prioritization of politics over combat readiness,” ending defense funding for “pet climate projects,” and appointing a special inspector general to oversee the U.S. support for Ukraine.

Because outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) presides over a narrow Democratic majority that includes progressives who typically vote against the NDAA, she will need some Republican votes if she hopes to finalize the bill before the new Congress is sworn in in January.

Republican lawmakers have grown increasingly critical of what they perceive as the spread of liberal worldviews through the ranks of the Pentagon.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) released a report last week laying out what they described as the Biden administration’s efforts to turn the military into a “left-wing social experiment.”

The report detailed, among other things, examples of military service academies pushing critical race theory, Pentagon leaders focusing on ridding the ranks of “extremism” with ideological training, and the military requiring service members to learn about proper pronoun usage and transgender policies.

House Republicans could use the NDAA fight to force a reevaluation of such policies, as well as the vaccine mandate they have long opposed.

Republicans have railed against the Biden administration for upholding a vaccine requirement that has put thousands of military jobs at risk at a time when the Pentagon is struggling to recruit and retain enough service members to maintain readiness.

House Republicans in September cited data that suggested roughly 75,000 active and reserve members of the Army faced removal at that time over their refusal to receive the shot.

The Freedom Caucus has demanded Republicans withhold their support from the NDAA until the mandate has been repealed and those who were expelled under it are reinstated.

But Democrats and the Biden administration appear poised to fight for the NDAA to pass in the lame-duck session.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin wrote in letters to Democratic congressional leaders this week that passage of a full year of funding for the Pentagon is “essential.” He noted that legislation addressing the military’s broader needs is “just as important.”


“They deserve and require prompt action by Congress as well,” Austin wrote.

Still, McCarthy’s quest to become speaker may help the conservative cause on the Pentagon funding bill.

As he faces a potential revolt from the right flank of his party, McCarthy may be more willing than he would otherwise be to press for conservative demands on a bill both parties typically come together to advance each year.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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