House Rules Committee to Weigh DEI, COVID Vaccine Amendments, and More: 2025 Defense Budget Hearing

The House Rules Committee will consider whether to advance a House version of the 2025 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to a floor vote during a hearing on Tuesday.

The NDAA serves as the annual military and defense budget. The House version of this year’s bill comes in at about $883 billion and currently includes funding for continuing military aircraft, ships, vehicles, and weapons programs, as well as a 4.5 percent pay raise for U.S. service members across the board, and a 19.5 percent pay raise for some junior service members.

In recent weeks, House Democrats and Republicans have submitted some 1,382 amendments, which the Rules Committee will consider on Tuesday before voting on whether or not to move the bill forward for full consideration before the House.

Among the list of NDAA amendments are numerous partisan riders that could decide the degree of bipartisan support for the House bill.
Without naming any specific amendments, House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-Wash.) issued a statement last week, urging House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) to “reject attempts to add poison pills or partisan riders” and strive for broad bipartisan support when passing the NDAA.

Republicans Seek to Curb LGBT, Gender Identity, Diversity Programs

Several of the partisan NDAA amendments include Republican-backed measures to curb the U.S. military’s emphasis on diversity and LGBT representation in recent years.

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) brought an amendment that would bar the U.S. Department of Defense’s education arm, the Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA), from using federal funds for LGBT pride month-related instruction or celebration. She brought another amendment that would compel the DOD to document the federal funds it has used for pride month expenses.

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Meanwhile, Rep. Shontel Brown (D-Ohio) offered an amendment that would undo an existing section of the House NDAA that bars the secretary of defense from establishing DEI policy bodies for DODEA schools.
Reps. Haley Stevens (D-Mich.) and Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) brought their own amendment that would create a pilot program to teach members of the armed services how “to combat information-based threats, including disinformation campaigns by foreign adversaries, and to effectively identify and counter antisemitic, white supremacist, and other extremist conspiracy theories.”

Tlaib Seeks Espionage Act Reforms

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) has offered an amendment that she’s said would amend the Espionage Act to “reign in the government’s abuse of the law to target journalists and whistleblowers.”

A group of 19 press freedom, civil liberties, human rights, and whistleblower protection groups sent a letter to House Rules Committee Chair Richard Burgess (R-Texas) and Ranking Member Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) on Monday, urging the committee leaders to find Ms. Tlaib’s amendment in order when it comes up for consideration in the committee.

“The Espionage Act may sound like a law dealing with spies and saboteurs, but this overly broad World War I-era law threatens press freedom by serving as a tool to prosecute publishers, journalists, their sources, and whistleblowers,” the joint letter from the 19 organizations reads. “The Espionage Act, which predates both the classification system and modern First Amendment jurisprudence, criminalizes the unauthorized disclosure of ‘national defense information,’ a term the statute leaves undefined. This law has been used to threaten and prosecute both media outlets that publish government secrets, as well as their sources.”

The groups further argued that the Espionage Act is written so broadly that it could be applied against even individuals discussing topics they read about in newspapers.

The U.S. government is currently seeking to convict Wikileaks founder Julian Assange for alleged Espionage Act violations. Mr. McGovern, Ms. Greene, and other lawmakers in November signed onto a bipartisan letter calling for President Joe Biden to drop the Espionage Act prosecution against Mr. Assange.

Gaetz Amendment Repays, Rehires Troops Fired Over COVID Vaccines

Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Eli Crane (R-Ariz.) introduced an amendment that would grant backpay and bonuses for service members who were discharged from the military after declining to take vaccines against COVID-19.

Their amendment would also create a 90-day window in which service members discharged over the vaccine mandate could return to service in the same rank and grade that they held before they were discharged.

Rep. Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.) has offered his own amendment barring the (DOD) from ever imposing a vaccine mandate within the military again.
Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) brought his own amendment requiring the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to presume there is a service connection to illnesses and medical conditions associated with COVID-19 vaccine side effects. By establishing a presumption of a service connection for these conditions, the amendment would raise the likelihood that the Department has to assume responsibility for treating those conditions.

Original News Source Link – Epoch Times

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