When it suits their purposes, Republicans in Congress love to wrap themselves in the flag, proclaim their patriotism and show honor to U.S. military members.

But pay travel costs for a female sergeant in the Army with a pregnancy that, for medical reasons, must be ended and who must travel to a state where abortions are performed? Why, that’s an unacceptable use of taxpayer dollars, say these same Republicans.

Support diversity efforts? That is nothing but “wokeism,” say conservatives. And don’t even bring up Pentagon support for helping service members with gender transition.

Leading the way to put these restrictions into the new defense budget bill is House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. The California Republican was front and center proclaiming the strength of the $886 billion defense bill his Republican-majority House passed on a slim 219-210 tally.

McCarthy declared the bill had the largest pay hike ever for military personnel, at 5.2%. On that point, Republicans and Democrats could agree.

But hard-right members from the ironically named House Freedom Caucus forced McCarthy to accept other provisions. One is the ban on granting time off and paying travel expenses for military women who are based in a state where abortions are outlawed.


Hard-right House members argued that the government should not be paying for abortions. Heads up to Freedom Caucus members: Time off for needed medical services, plus gas and motel money, is not paying for abortions.

Naval Air Station Lemoore is in McCarthy’s district, but it is also in California, where reproductive health services are still available to any women needing such medical care. So none of McCarthy’s Lemoore constituents will actually be harmed by the ill-considered provision. Pity military women stationed in Alabama, Tennessee, Texas and other states.

Military efforts at recruiting could take a hit on another aspect of the House’s defense bill.

Recruiting has become difficult for the military. A year ago, the Army had achieved just 66% of its recruiting goal. The Navy was at 89% of the goal. The other branches had met their targets, but overall, the Defense Department had a total rate of just 85%. This year is shaping up to be another down year, with only the Space Force expecting to achieve its goals.

So it is understandable that the Pentagon would include diversity efforts in its outreach. If recruits see people like them in the military, chances are good that more Americans will be attracted to join.

Nope, that’s bad, said Freedom Caucus members, and McCarthy backed them up.


Any efforts to focus on diversity, equity and inclusion – DEI, as it is known – is just progressive “woke” policy, McCarthy said.

McCarthy said that he and his Republican colleagues “want our men and women in the military to have every defense possible and that is what our bill does.”

When servicewomen have to go out of state for medical care, “every defense possible” is just an empty talking point. When barriers to diversity are built into a military spending bill that, for 60 years, has been a solid bipartisan measure, that is not helping the Pentagon with recruitment. And prohibiting the military from offering health coverage for gender transition surgeries, as the Republican Party’s bill does, further alienates soldiers, sailors and airmen seeking such help.

The defense spending bills now head to the Democratic Senate, where the hard-right provisions will almost certainly be stripped out. A conference committee of the chambers will then have to settle the differences. That will likely be a heated process. Whether a military funding bill can be put into place by Oct. 1, when the next budget year begins, is anyone’s guess.

As is becoming his norm since taking over in January as speaker, McCarthy sacrifices bipartisan leadership to placate hard-right members, without whom he would not be speaker, but with whom he capitulates to extremist policies.

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