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    Monday, July 22, 2024

    House passes defense bill over Democrats’ objections to ‘poison pill’ amendments

    The Virginia-class submarine USS Virginia (SSN-774) Wednesday, May 8, 2024 at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, joined fellow Democrats in voting Friday against the proposed 2025 National Defense Authorization Act after Republicans had added provisions regarding payments for abortion services, a permanent freeze on hiring for diversity, equity and inclusion jobs and other cultural issues.

    The measure passed 217 to 199, with 211 Republicans voting for it and 196 Democrats opposing it.

    Last month, the House Armed Services Committee, of which Courtney is a senior member, approved the bill, 57-1, in the process reversing the Navy’s request to cut $1.1 billion in funding for a second Virginia-class submarine.

    The additional submarine money remained in the bill the full House approved.

    Also Friday, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved the NDAA, 22-3, with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., voting with the majority.

    “This bipartisan defense authorization bill makes critical investments in the two pillars of our national defense: advanced technologies and the talented workforce that build them, and the brave men and women dedicated to defending our nation,” Blumenthal said in a statement issued after the vote. “This national security support package recognizes the central role Connecticut plays in our nation's defense efforts.”

    Courtney commended the Senate committee for “mirroring the House Armed Services Committee” by adding a second Virginia-class submarine to the bill, which will now be taken up by the full Senate.

    Eventually, the House- and Senate-approved bills will be reconciled during a months-long process likely to include the removal of the so-called “poison pill” amendments Republican representatives supported, according to Courtney’s office. Such a scenario has been playing out annually in recent years.

    Courtney was among eight Democratic members of the House Armed Services Committee, including Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the ranking member, who issued a statement urging committee members to vote against the Republican-amended version of the House bill.

    “For the 64th consecutive year, House Armed Services Democrats and Republicans worked across the aisle to pass a defense bill out of committee that invested in the greatest sources of America’s strength: service members and their families, science and technology, modernization, and a commitment to our allies and partners,” the statement said.

    “The underlying bill, rooted in the work of the bipartisan Quality of Life Panel, delivered a historic 19.5% pay raise for junior enlisted service members and pay raises for all other service members,” the statement continued. “It included improvements for housing, health care, childcare, and spousal support. ... The adoption of poison pill amendments attacking reproductive health care, women, LGBTQ+ individuals, and people of color undermines the purpose of the defense bill by demeaning service members and degrading our national defense.”

    b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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