By Tony Perkins
In a Congress run by Democrats, it’s not every day that conservatives can celebrate a common-sense victory. So when word leaked that there’d been a dramatic change to the military spending bill, most Republicans were waiting for the other shoe to drop. By late Tuesday morning, the rumors about the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) turned out to be true: As part of a new compromise between negotiators, the language over forcing women in the military draft has been completely eliminated — a stunning turnaround that wouldn’t have been possible without a handful of leaders in the House and Senate, and more than 200,000 messages from people like you.
At first, members of Congress like Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), who took one of the most outspoken positions against the idea (including a public ultimatum to hold his party responsible), were cautiously optimistic. It’s one thing to say the two sides had stripped the draft language from the bill — and quite another to see the text in black and white. His staff, when asked, said they were pleased to hear (through the grapevine) that House and Senate leaders finally “did the right thing and removed the absurd requirement for women to register for the draft,” but made it clear that they looked forward to reviewing the actual language. “Given the nature of this town,” Roy’s team said, “[we] hope that these reports will actually come to fruition.”
Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who sponsored an amendment on the issue like Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), took a similar tone. “It appears the NDAA will no longer require women to register for the military draft. I certainly hope that is the case. If it is not, then I will keep fighting for a vote on the Senate floor to strip this wrong and misguided provision out of the final bill.” It’s wrong, the senator insisted last week, “to force our daughters, mothers, wives, and sisters to fight our wars. Our country is extremely grateful for the brave women who have volunteered to serve our country with and alongside our fighting forces,” he said, echoing the thanks of FRC and others. “They have played a vital role in defending America at every point in our nation’s history. But volunteering for military service is not the same as being forced into it, and no women should be compelled to do so.”
By noon today, FRC staff started combing through the compromise version of the NDAA themselves — looking for a number of issues that they’d flagged as major problems for offices, things like expanded “diversity training,” free contraceptives (including Plan B), loopholes for taxpayer-funded abortion, increased focus on “hate group” extremism, a mandate for “gender advisors,” and a long list of avenues for the Left to impose their transgender and LGBT extremism on our men and women in uniform. Thanks to the members of Congress who conferenced on the bill and hashed out the details — Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), with help from Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) — Democrats have been talked out almost every attempt to use the military for social experimentation. Considering the state of play heading into this week, that’s a monumental achievement.
A number of news outlets, including Politico, seemed surprised that GOP negotiators could exact this kind of concession. Usually, they explain, sections of the bill that have approval in both chambers “are almost guaranteed to become law in the final bill lawmakers iron out. The military draft expansion is one of the rare exceptions.”
Obviously, none of this would have happened without a core group of Republicans who were determined to the hold the line behind the scenes. And part of that determination came from you — the tens of thousands of our supporters who gave them the encouragement to fight. As Hartzler argued, this was never about improving military readiness. “Instead, it passed through committee under the misplaced guise of ‘equality,’ imposing a woke ideology on our troops rather than meeting the current needs of our military… Women are not chess pieces in a political game. They are doctors, lawyers, engineers, and already valuable members of our all-volunteer force. I applaud the removal of this unnecessary provision and am grateful to see reasonable minds come together to join me in resisting this effort.”
Unfortunately, one way Democrats thought the GOP can repay them for their goodwill was by agreeing to hitch the debt limit debate to the NDAA. In their minds, if they could put a controversial issue like raising America’s borrowing limit on a piece of must-pass legislation, they could kill two birds and still make it home in time for Christmas.
Not so fast, Republicans said. The last thing they want to do is look supportive of digging the hole deeper on America’s debt. For months, conservatives have argued that if Democrats want to keep spending and make a mess of the country’s credit, then they need to be the ones to extend another line of credit. Tying the two bills together would give the impression that Republicans who vote for the NDAA also support the reckless spending the president’s party is doing — and they don’t. It’s a “terrible idea,” Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) told reporters. “We’ve been pretty clear that we’re not actually going to be a part of actually helping them [add] trillions of additional debt that we had no part of. That’s been a pretty clear statement from the beginning on this, and it should continue to be that.”
The latest word is that Democrats are rethinking that strategy. As early as tonight, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), might try to pass a one-time rule change that would let the Senate increase the debt limit by a simple majority — 51 votes — instead of the usual 60. Initially that seemed like a tough sell to Republicans, but one by one they seem to be on board with this strategy to let the Left “raise the debt limit on their own.”
In the meantime, FRC couldn’t be more proud of the Republicans who went to the mat to fight off the horrible implications for our daughters in the earlier version of the bill. It’s not easy to take a stand in the minority, so let these members know you appreciate it! Take a minute to call their offices and thank them, especially if they represent your state: Senator Inhofe, Okla. (202-224-4721); Rep. Hartzler, Mo. (202-225-2876); Rep. Roy, Texas (202-225-4236); Rep. Rogers, Ala. (202-225-3261); Senator Hawley, Mo. (202-224-6154); Senator Lee, Utah (202-224-5444).