July 18, 2023

National defense bill gets mixed votes from NM delegation over anti-abortion, anti-trans, anti-diversity provisions

Bill Moree

The U.S. Capitol building, in 2022.

The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives passed a military funding bill that contains anti-abortion, anti-trans and anti-diversity training provisions.

The House voted last week on the National Defense Authorization Act mostly down party lines, with only four Democrats voting for it and four Republicans voting against it with a final vote of 219-210. U.S. House of Representatives Gabe Vasquez, representing New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District, was one of the four Democrats who voted in favor of the bill.

The bill outlines spending priorities for the military, appropriating $875.4 billion for Fiscal Year 2024. It includes compensation and benefits for members of the military and multiyear procurement of weapons systems.

New Mexico’s other two members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Melanie Stansbury of the 1st Congressional District, and Teresa Leger Fernández of the 3rd Congressional District, also Democrats, voted against the bill.

Republicans inserted amendments on the House floor that overturned Pentagon provisions that provided travel reimbursement and administrative leave for service members who need to obtain an abortion. 

The Republican-backed amendments also bar insurance coverage of gender-affirming surgery and hormone therapy for military personnel and eliminated the Pentagon’s diversity training office.

Stansbury appeared on MSNBC over the weekend to denounce the bill’s passage, saying that in the past, there has “been a long tradition of supporting the NDAA on a bipartisan basis.”

“But over the last week, we watched as these hateful amendments got added,” she said.

In a separate statement, Stansbury said she could not in good conscience support the bill, calling it “unprecedented.”

Leger Fernández spoke on the House floor before the bill’s passage, calling it a “travel ban for pregnant service women.” She also called it “un-American.”

Vasquez said through a video statement that, though he voted for the bill, he intends to work with his Senate colleagues to “improve the bill.” He said that the bill expands missile testing at White Sands Missile Range, among other programs. Vasquez is a member of the House Armed Services Committee. He said the committee approved a bipartisan version of the bill before it went to the House floor.

The bill also provides pay increases to service members and includes a host of provisions, such as expanding a home-based child care pilot program at Holloman Air Force Base.

In a statement, Vasquez said that the final bill included various provisions he authored during committee, “such as quality-of-life improvements for service members, clean water, energy resiliency on military installations, and support for missions that provide quality jobs for New Mexicans.”

In a statement to NM Political Report, Vasquez said that he “worked hard to deliver results for New Mexico in the defense bill.”

“That’s not always easy. That’s why I voted for a bill that included my provisions, knowing that this bill isn’t done. I plan on working with the Senate to improve the bill and strip the anti-choice and discriminatory amendments to ensure our service members have access to health care and our LGBTQ+ community isn’t discriminated,” Vasquez said through text message.

The bill heads next to the U.S. Senate, where Democrats are in the majority with 51 members. Senator Martin Heinrich, also a Democrat, told NM Political Report that “House Republicans’ partisan defense bill is focused on scoring political points at the expense of military readiness and our national security.”

“My focus is on delivering a strong and bipartisan Senate Defense bill that strengthens New Mexico’s military installations and invests in the success of the dedicated service members defending our freedom at home and abroad,” Heinrich said.