House Republicans Wage War on DEI, Abortion Access, the LGBTQ Community, and Climate Goals in FY 2024 NDAA

Jonathan Cohn
6 min readJul 15, 2023

On Friday, the US House voted 219 to 210 for a contentious National Defense Authorization Act, which House Republicans had used as a vehicle for culture war fights.

House Democratic Leadership encouraged members to vote NO, highlighting the following major flaws of the bill as it was brought to the floor:

  • Elimination of the Chief Diversity Officer and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Advisory Board, which will make it more difficult to ensure that our military is inclusive and reflective of population
  • Reinstatement of those who disobeyed a lawful order to be vaccinated against COVID-19, which would undermine the chain of command
  • Rescission of requirements for contractors to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions, which is an attack on recent progress on environmental protection

Republicans used the amendment process to make the bill even worse, waging war against abortion access, trans health care, affirmative action, DEI programs, and climate policy. This is all, of course, on top of the problem that the US spends far too much money on war (and not enough on social welfare) and that the Pentagon regularly fails audits.

Four Democrats voted for the NDAA: Don Davis (NC-01), Jared Golden (ME-02), Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (WA-03), and Gabe Vasquez (NM-02).

Four Republicans voted against it: Andy Biggs (AZ-05), Ken Buck (CO-04), Eli Crane (AZ-02), and Thomas Massie (KY-04).

Abortion Access

Ronny Jackson (TX-13)’s amendment to ban the Pentagon from paying for or reimbursing expenses relating to abortion services passed 221 to 213.

Only one Democrat voted for it: Henry Cuellar (TX-28), behind whom Democratic Leadership had rallied last year despite his having a progressive, pro-choice primary challenger.

Only two Republicans voted against it: John Duarte (CA-13) and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), both of who represent competitive districts (Partisan Voting Indexes of D+4 and EVEN, respectively).

Trans Health Care

Matthew Rosendale (MT-02)’s amendment to prohibit military health care from paying for transitions and hormone therapy passed 221 to 211.

Cuellar was the only Democrat to vote yes, and Duarte was the only Republican to vote no.

The House also passed an amendment from Ralph Norman (SC-05) to ban the Exceptional Family Member Program, which covers military families with special needs, from paying for transitions.

The vote was 222 to 210. Cuellar was again the only Democrat to vote yes. Ken Buck (CO-04) was the only Republican to vote no, but this could have been a mistake.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Republicans spent a lot of time attacking Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs in the military, having already done so in the base bill.

The House passed Eric Burlison (MO-07)’s amendment to prohibit DoD from establishing new DEI administrator positions and/or taking actions to fill existing vacancies by 218 to 213.

The only Republicans to vote against it were Lori Chavez-DeRemer (OR-05; PVI: D+2) and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01).

Ralph Norman (SC-05)’s amendment to eliminate any DEI office and associated personnel narrowly passed 214 to 213.

Don Bacon (NE-02), Lori Chavez-DeRemer (OR-05), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), and Mike Turner (OH-10) voted no.

This vote failed originally, a deadlocked 216–216. In order to pass it, Republican Leadership disallowed the six delegates from voting (House Rules allow them to vote if their votes do not change the outcome).

Democratic delegates Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Gregorio Sablan (NMI), and Stacey Plaskett (VI) had all voted against it. Republican delegates Jennifer González-Colón (PR) and James Moylan (Guam) had voted in favor. Republican delegate Amata Coleman Radewagen (American Samoa) was absent. With a loss of only two votes in support but three votes against, the amendment secured passage.

The House passed Eli Crane (AZ-02)’s amendment to ban the Department of Defense from making DEI training a requirement for hiring, promotion, or retention by 214 to 210. His use of the term “colored people” in his floor speech on behalf of the amendment was a great demonstration of why DEI training is important, and he was rightly called out by Democrat and Congressional Black Caucus member Joyce Beatty (OH-03) for it.

Jared Golden (ME-02) was the only Democrat to vote for the amendment, and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01) was the only Republican to vote against it.

The House also passed Chip Roy (TX-21)’s amendment to ban the use of funding to create Chief Diversity Officer or Senior Advisor for Diversity and Inclusion positions. The vote was 217 to 212, with Republicans Lori Chavez-DeRemer (OR-05) and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01) joining Democrats in voting no.

Despite the series of anti-DEI attacks, Matt Gaetz (FL-01)’s amendment to ban federal funding for DEI training failed 210 to 221.

Nine Republicans joined Democrats in voting no: Don Bacon (NE-02; PVI: EVEN), Lori Chavez-DeRemer (OR-05), Anthony D’Esposito (NY-04; D+5), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), Jennifer González-Colón (PR), John James (MI-10; R+3), Mike Lawler (NY-17; D+3), Marc Molinaro (NY-19; EVEN), and Mike Turner (OH-10, R+4).

Affirmative Action

The House passed Jim Banks (IN-03)’s amendment to ban affirmative action in military academies by 218 to 210.

Democrats Henry Cuellar (TX-28) and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (WA-03) joined Republicans in voting for it. Republican John James (MI-10) joined Democrats in voting against it.

“Critical Race Theory”

Republicans, who remain convinced that the problem with the Pentagon is not its bloated budget but that it is somehow “woke,” also took on their favorite ill-defined target of “critical race theory,” which too often refers not to the actual legal philosophy doctrine but to anything that acknowledges that racism exists or that slavery is part of US history.

For example, Chip Roy (TX-21) put forth an amendment to prohibit the pre-K to secondary education system run by the Pentagon from being used to promoting so-called “race-based theories,” i.e. the idea that “1) Any race is inherently superior or inferior to any other race, color, or national origin. 2) The US is a fundamentally racist country. 3) The Declaration of Independence or the US Constitution are racist documents, 4) An individual’s moral character or worth is determined by the individual’s race, color, or national origin. 5) An individual, by virtue of the individual’s race, is inherently racist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously. 6) An individual, because of the individual’s race, bears responsibility for the actions committed by other members of the individual’s race, color, or national origin.”

Of course, when Republicans complain about talk about children being taught that “any race is inherently superior or inferior,” they are not seeking to take on white nationalism: they are complaining about black and brown students being treated as equal to white students, and the complexities — good and bad — of US history being acknowledged.

Disturbingly, the amendment got Democratic support, passing 227 to 201.

9 Democrats voted for it: Jake Auchincloss (MA-04), Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Don Davis (NC-01), Jared Golden (ME-02), Seth Moulton (MA-06), Wiley Nickel (NC-13), Chris Pappas (NH-01), Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (WA-03), and Kim Schrier (WA-08). Brendan Boyle (PA-02) voted present.

Further Attacks on the LGBTQ Community

Lauren Boebert (CO-03) had an amendment to ban Department of Defense Education Activity schools from purchasing and having books about LGBTQ youth.

It passed 222 to 209. Henry Cuellar (TX-28) and Don Davis (NC-01) joined Republicans in voting in favor of the ban.

The House also passed Ralph Norman (SC-05)’s amendment to codify Trump administration guidance banning the display of Pride flags on military bases and properties. It passed 218 to 213.

Don Davis (NC-01) and Elissa Slotkin (MI-07) joined Republicans in voting in favor (Slotkin’s statement in defense of her vote was not compelling). Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), Mike Lawler (NY-17), and Marc Molinaro (NY-19) joined Democrats in voting against it.

Climate Policy

Although not itself a cultural issue, climate policy so often gets wrapped up in Republican culture war attacks because of the ways in which meaningfully addressing climate change requires structural change and lifestyle change.

Chip Roy (TX-21)’s amendment to ban DOD from carrying out Biden’s climate change executive orders passed 217 to 216, with three Republicans voting NO: Lori Chavez-DeRemer (OR-05), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), and Zach Nunn (IA-03).

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Jonathan Cohn

Editor. Bibliophile. Gadfly. Environmentalist. Super-volunteer for progressive campaigns. Boston by way of Baltimore, London, NYC, DC, and Philly.