Kevin McCarthy proves that house finishers have it wrapped around their finger
Kevin McCarthy on the right side of his congressional hearing on Thursday, giving hardliners their way on several major changes to the National Defense Authorization Act that could end up on the Pentagon’s annual bill in a full vote in the House. “It’s really sad that the Republican Party doesn’t understand that diversity is important,” Adam Smiththe top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, to the Washington Post, confirming that he would not vote on the legislation he helped draft. “They’re basically dismissing the LGBTQ community and women and people of color. “
Right-wing conservatives have threatened to block the NDAA — an $886 billion defense package seen in Washington as a must-pass — unless it targets the they say “woke” military policies under the President. Joe Biden, setting up another possible standoff with the House speaker, who has been aiming to get the legislation through the House by the end of this week. In writing, he may have been avoiding – for now – another brutal political fight with the right, which, under a major concession he made to get the gavel in January , call for a vote on his speech at any time. But it has also cast serious doubt on the bill’s path, as Democrats were against it after party votes on Thursday. “I don’t think I’ve ever voted for NDAA,” Democrat number three Pete Aguilar told the New York Times after a heated debate about the partisan changes. “I don’t.”
The House rejected two amendments – put out by Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz– to end military aid to Ukraine. But Republicans succeeded in passing amendments that would have restricted abortion access and banned transgender health care for members of the military, as well as ending diversity and inclusion programs in the military. In arguing for the latter, one Republican—Eli Crane from Arizona — referred to black people as “colored people”: “The military was never meant to be, you know, inclusive,” Crane said. “Diversity is not strength. Strength is his standards.”
That drew a sharp rebuke from Democrats, who got his words off the record with unanimous approval. “I find it offensive and very inappropriate,” said the Representative Joyce Beatty, who was the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. The words were taken down, but Crane’s amendment still passed 214-210 Thursday night.
Several Republicans appeared upset that the amendments were allowed to make their way to the floor for votes, aware that it would jeopardize the passage of the NDAA. “We shouldn’t be taking this fucking vote, man,” rep Nancy Mace told her staff in a Capitol elevator Thursday, apparently describing a measure to ban abortion care as an “asshole amendment.” But Mace would end up voting for that very change — a sign of how intolerant “mainstream” House GOP members are to their more fringe colleagues. “House Republicans have turned what should have been a meaningful investment in our men and women in uniform into reckless legislative exuberance,” the House Democratic leader said. Hakeem JeffriesDemocratic Whip Caitlin Clark, and Aguilar, the caucus chairman, said in a statement Thursday, criticizing the GOP for allowing “true MAGA Republicans” to “take away” the legislation. “We will vote on the last section of this bill.”
Whether Republicans can get their partisan NDAA through the House on their own remains to be seen. But even if they do, it will die in the Democratically held Senate, which could set up a fight between the two chambers. That could put McCarthy back in the position he sought to avoid when he surrendered to the hardliners this week – that is, caught between the demands of his job as speaker and the uncompromising caucus that could jeopardize that position. “This process is a joke,” Democrat Jim McGovernmember of the House Rules Committee, said Thursday. “Speaker McCarthy may be the leader, but the clowns have taken over the circus.”