NDAA Votes Show that Hawkishness, Militarizing Police Have Bipartisan Support

Jonathan Cohn
5 min readJul 16, 2023

Yesterday, I wrote about how Republicans were waging culture war through the FY 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

But it’s important to remember that there are more bad votes than just those: bloating an already bloated warfare state is at the heart of every year’s votes on the NDAA, and this was no different.

In particular, this week saw the US House vote down efforts to decommission certain nuclear weapons and ban the transfer of cluster munitions. The House voted to increase the militarization of local police departments and tie Biden’s hands behind his back in addressing the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

Nuclear Weapons

President Joe Biden has stated an intention to decommission the B83–1 bomb, but as so often happens, Congress refuses to let any weapon be decommissioned because weapons production is a coveted jobs program (and fundraising tool).

Earl Blumenaauer (OR-03)’s amendment to prohibit the use of funds for the sustainment of the B83–1 bomb and strike contrary language failed 198 to 217.

12 Democrats joined Republicans in voting against it: Sanford Bishop (GA-02), Ed Case (HI-01), Jim Costa (CA-21), Chris Deluzio (PA-17), Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05), Susie Lee (NV-03), Jared Moskowitz (FL-23), Seth Moulton (MA-06), Wiley Nickel (NC-13), Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (WA-03), Pat Ryan (NY-18), and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-25).

Only three Republicans voted in favor: Ken Buck (CO-04), Tom Massie (KY-04), and George Santos (NY-03).

Rashida Tlaib (MI-12)’s amendment to strike the ban on reducing the total number of nuclear armed Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) deployed in the United States also failed, by a wider 160 to 266.

48 Democrats joined Republicans in voting against it:

Militarizing Local Police Forces

The federal 1033 program permits the Secretary of Defense to transfer excess weapons of war to state and local law enforcement. Over the past decade, we have seen many horrifying photos of police approaching anti-police-brutality protesters as though they were enemy combatants, and the 1033 program is what enables them to do so.

Last year, President Biden enacted some reforms to the program via executive order, banning the transfer of certain equipment and requiring greater oversight. However, the reforms have some gaping loopholes, and the reforms to the 1033 program under President Obama had limited impact. The program, as progressives in Congress have called for, needs to be straight-up repealed.

Republicans, of course, want to go in the opposite direction. During the NDAA debate, Republican Mike Waltz (FL-06) put forth an amendment to undo Biden’s reforms to the 1033 program. It passed 234 to 198.

17 Democrats joined Republicans in voting for it: Nikki Budzinski (IL-13), Yadira Caraveo (CO-08), Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Don Davis (NC-01), Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05), Josh Harder (CA-09), Greg Landsman (OH-01), Susie Lee (NV-03), Jared Moskowitz (FL-23), Wiley Nickel (NC-13), Chris Pappas (NH-01), Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (WA-03), Hillary Scholten (MI-03), Eric Swalwell (CA-14), Dina Titus (NV-01), Gabe Vasquez (NM-02), and Susan Wild (PA-07).

Only 3 Republicans voted against it: Tim Burchett (TN-02), Tom Massie (KY-04), and Tom McClintock (CA-05).

Banning the Sale or Transfer of Cluster Munitions

President Biden recently announced a transfer of cluster munitions to Ukraine for the ongoing war to fend off Russian invasion.

Although support for Ukraine is important, transferring cluster munitions marks a backslide in recent human rights progress. More than 120 countries have banned cluster munitions as part of a global convention. And the reason why is clear: cluster munitions recklessly endanger civilian populations.

As Bonnie Docherty of Human Rights Watch explains:

Cluster munitions, which Russia has used extensively in Ukraine, disperse dozens or hundreds of smaller submunitions, or bomblets, across a broad area, the size of a city block. Each of these submunitions shatters into metal fragments that can tear off limbs and inflict fatal wounds. They cause civilian casualties at the time of attack because they cannot discriminate between soldiers and civilians. In addition, many do not explode on impact, lingering like landmines and posing an ongoing threat to the local population.

This issue creates a “strange bedfellows” coalition in Congress. On the one hand, you have progressives who care about human rights. And on the other, you have the conservatives who care less about civilian casualties and more about the recipient of the weapons: Ukraine, a country they oppose because of their fondness for Russia’s Vladimir Putin and his nationalist conservatism.

Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA-14)’s amendment to ban the sale or transfer of cluster munitions to Ukraine failed 147 to 276.

Voting in favor were 98 Republicans and 49 Democrats. Voting against were 121 Republicans and 155 Democrats. Democrats Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18) and Marcy Kaptur (OH-09) voted present.

It’s a rare occurrence that voting with MTG is, in fact, the progressive vote, but this was such a time. Here are the 49 Democrats:

Preventing a Rethink of Afghanistan Policy

Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the country has been in a humanitarian crisis. After a much-criticized but necessary withdrawal of military troops from Afghanistan, the Biden administration has focused its efforts on economic sanctions instead as a tool to force political change.

Unfortunately, they have had little to no impact on the Taliban, but have made it difficult for humanitarian agencies to operate, according to the Brookings Institution. The US has had to create workarounds to accommodate the situation.

Scott Perry (PA-04), who helped conspire with Trump to overturn the 2020 election, put forth an amendment to prevent Biden from making any changes to the sanctions regime.

It passed 247 to 185, with 27 Democrats joining Republicans in voting yes.

Here are the 27 Democrats:

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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.