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Tags: defense bill | culture war
OPINION

Why Bring Culture War to Defense Bill?

Hands holding an outline of a human fetus with money spread out on the table
(Dreamstime)

Susan Estrich By Tuesday, 18 July 2023 07:21 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Calling it a "cause that is righteous," Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., chair of the House Freedom Caucus, told reporters, "We are not going to relent, we are not going to back down, we're not going to give up," and pledged to "use every single tool at our disposal" to defend the socially conservative changes that were added to the defense bill in a sharply divided vote on Friday.

Those changes, which were meant to deny transgender care and eliminate diversity and inclusion training for military personnel, and limit abortion access by denying time off to servicewomen, passed on a party-line vote of 219-210, with near-unanimous Republican support after the Freedom Caucus flexed its muscle and made clear that it would not sign on to a bipartisan defense bill without insertion of divisive partisan positions.

Why bring the culture wars to the defense authorization bill?

The answer is because they can. Because they smell Speaker Kevin McCarthy's weakness and hope to exploit it. Because they know that down the road, President Joe Biden will have to negotiate with them, and this is how they set it up.

There is absolutely nothing righteous about the way the Freedom Caucus plays politics.

There is nothing righteous about holding the most vulnerable soldiers hostage to political infighting. The current Defense Department policy grants women in the service time off if they must travel to a different state to secure a safe and legal abortion.

Should all pay raises for the military really be held up while Congress debates whether to take that time off away? Is the transgender care provided to soldiers a threat to national security? Is there any doubt that racism and sexism remain real issues to be addressed in the Defense Department?

There is no righteous case for eliminating diversity and inclusion training. This is tokenism politics gone wrong. But it doesn't matter, because it is politics after all.

"It is core and fundamental to defense that we stop making the Defense Department a social engineering experiment wrapped in a uniform," Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, one of the conservative leaders, said. And yet that is precisely what they did.

And it was not limited to gender issues. By a 217-216 vote, the House of Representatives also passed an amendment blocking the Defense Department from carrying out Biden's executive orders on climate change.

The tenor of the debate was so bad in the House that at one point, referred to "colored people" in remarks about not requiring diversity and inclusion programs, leading another member of Congress to suggest, "From the backwards, racially insensitive comments spoken on this floor, it seems DEI training would be good right here in the halls of Congress."

All of this is sure to set up a fight with the Democratic-controlled Senate, where the bill is headed next. In the meantime, what is at stake is an $886 billion bill that includes a 5.2% raise to military personnel, along with programs to deal with offensive moves by China and Russia, and creating a special inspector general for U.S. aid to Ukraine. So much for not social engineering.

Susan Estrich is a politician, professor, lawyer and writer. Whether on the pages of newspapers such as The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post or as a television commentator on countless news programs on CNN, Fox News, NBC, ABC, CBS and NBC, she has tackled legal matters, women's concerns, national politics and social issues. Read Susan Estrich's Reports — More Here.

© Creators Syndicate Inc.


Estrich
Why bring the culture wars to the defense authorization bill?
defense bill, culture war
585
2023-21-18
Tuesday, 18 July 2023 07:21 AM
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