The final version of the annual defense budget in the House of Representatives included a number of concessions to Republicans.
Among the provisions that Republicans opposed in the National Defense Authorization Act, which the House passed on Tuesday with a 363-70 vote, were a previous amendment that would have opened the draft to women and one that would have created the Office of Countering Extremism.
Last week, Senate Republicans voted against ending debate on the NDAA, thus forcing the leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees back to the negotiating table, which is where the GOP was able to force their hand.
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“We fought like hell to get a compromise that blocked the Left’s attempt to push their social agenda through Congress by eliminating the provisions that would restrict the Second Amendment rights of service members and require young women to register for the draft,” Rep. Mike Rogers, ranking member of the House Armed Service Committee, told the Washington Examiner in a statement.
Rogers also praised the inclusion of a provision that prevents military personnel who get separated for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine from getting discharged under less than the general designation.
“I’m also glad that we were able to get provisions that prohibit the DOD from dishonorably discharging service members who choose not to take the COVID-19 vaccine,” he added. “I am proud of the role conservatives, like Rep. Roy, have played in the creation of this bill year after year, and we should be proud of the strong conservative-led provisions that make up this year's bill and bolster our national security.”
Despite Rogers’s praise for the discharge amendment, it was the reason GOP Rep. Andy Biggs, the leader of the Freedom Caucus, was one of the 19 Republicans who voted against the NDAA.
“Our No. 1 priority always was ... to eliminate the vaccine mandates, particularly for members of the service,” he told the Washington Examiner in an interview. “But we were arguing for vaccine mandate prohibition across the board that we didn't get. That was distressing.”
"My constant refrain with the Leader [Kevin McCarthy] was the vaccine mandates have got to go away," Biggs added. "They must go away. The fact that you have thousands of military personnel who want to make the military their career, who are otherwise great soldiers, sailors, airmen, and women, and they're going to lose their career because of the vaccine mandate — that doesn't make sense to me. We've invested training dollars into them."
Rep. Chip Roy, the Texas Republican, was one of the most outspoken legislators against the amendment to expand the draft to include women.
"I don't want somebody to be forced out of their career in the military because of a politicized vaccine. ... And by the way, I want accountability for the Afghanistan debacle," he told the Washington Examiner in an interview. "So all of those things that I want to see, but what I was violently trying to fight was the drafting of our daughters and the office of extremism and then, of course, the vax mandates. And again, we got some pretty significant victories there because we fought."
Lawmakers also removed a provision that would have created the Office of Countering Extremism within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. Republicans expressed concern over the implementation of such a department and how it would differentiate between right-wing extremism and conservatism.
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"We were concerned about the vax mandate and concerned about drafting our daughters," Roy added. "We are concerned about the Office of Extremism and how that could be broadly construed and applied. And, at the end of the day, after all of our noise talking in the media — trying to gin this up, help from the outside groups, Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America — frankly, people across the country [are] starting to wake up and call in, check in. We got some good fixes."
Both Roy and Biggs praised McCarthy for his role in their efforts to change various aspects of the bill, though the latter noted, "It was not a very good bill the first time around. It just wasn't. And it's still loaded with problems."