House Republicans advanced plans for an $833 billion defense bill next year that once again includes limits on abortion access for troops and scales back diversity training in the ranks, controversial social stances that drew strong objections from Democratic lawmakers.

Similar amendments on the social issues were included in House Republicans’ appropriations bill last summer — but ultimately stripped out of the final compromise budget measure — and again in the defense authorization bill draft being debated on the chamber floor this week.

None of the provisions are likely to become law given opposition from the White House and Senate Democrats, but Republican lawmakers insisted the moves are needed to refocus defense leaders on their military missions and responsibilities.

“Today’s bill ensures our armed forces have the weapons and tools they need to confront any foe anywhere in the world,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Tom Cole, R-Okla.

The measure includes funding for a 4.5% pay raise for troops in 2025 and another 15% average raise for junior enlisted service members, a move which drew praise from Republicans and Democrats on the panel.

But the final 34-25 party line vote was largely a reflection of what Democratic lawmakers complained were non-defense fights in the military spending measure.

“As written, this bill does more to divide us than to unite us,” said Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio. “It contains partisan riders unrelated to defense policy that overwhelmingly make this critical bill a tool for division, not support that our service members rightfully expect and need.”

Rep. Betty Betty McCollum, D-Minn., offered an amendment to strip 24 major provisions of the bill — “funding for reproductive health, LGBTQ+ rights, diversity programs, climate inclusion programs, COVID prevention programs, freedom of speech” and more — that was ultimately voted down by the Republican majority.

The appropriations legislation is expected to move to the House floor in coming weeks, where it likely faces a similar path to last year’s bill: The addition of more conservative amendments followed by a legislative roadblock in the Senate over the social issue provisions.

When the Senate will advance its own draft of the appropriations bill remains unclear. Last year, disagreements between the two chambers delayed passage of the budget bill until six months into the new fiscal year, causing planning and accounting headaches for federal agencies.

Lawmakers have only a few weeks of legislative time left to avoid pushing the FY25 defense budget decision into next fiscal year. The House and Senate each only have seven weeks of session left in Washington scheduled between now and the November presidential election.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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