Republicans are pushing back against the inclusion of “woke” military policies in the annual defense policy bill known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and they plan to work to include provisions countering “wild” Biden administration policies as Democrats rush to push through a vote before the end of the year.
There has been discussion that Democrats may try and include the NDAA in a final end-of-year spending package, instead of allowing a separate vote on the defense bill, due to the lack of floor time before Congress leaves for the year. Senate Republicans say this strategy calls into question whether Congress can pass an NDAA, which sets military policy and spending levels for the Pentagon and other agencies in the country’s national defense infrastructure.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., blamed Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., for playing politics with the NDAA by delaying its passage until the last minute and preventing robust debate on its contents.
“The military seems to be Chuck Schumer’s new favorite political football,” said Blackburn. “We have passed the defense authorization 61 years in a row. Right now, I am confident there will be broad bipartisan support for number 62 — which makes this tight timeline even more unnecessary.”
Republicans oppose several provisions in the NDAA being considered by Democrats.
For example, Democrats have included language in the fiscal year 2023 NDAA to extend the military draft to women, prompting Republicans led by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., to introduce the “Don’t Draft our Daughters” amendment.
“The defense bill isn’t the place for Democrats to indulge the wild ideas of their latest social experiments, like forcing women to register for the draft,” Cotton told Fox News Digital. “If Democrats want to protect America and keep our troops safe, they should agree to pass a clean bill and leave their woke pet projects out of it.”
In other cases, Republicans are looking to include language to chip away at Biden administration policies they oppose.
Blackburn told Fox News Digital that she is worried about President Joe Biden’s military vaccine mandate and will work to protect Americans against the “New Axis of Evil,” such as China and other adversaries, by ensuring the NDAA “protects our troops from being fired due to Biden’s vaccine mandate.” She said blunting the vaccine mandate is even more critical as the military faces a recruitment crisis.
“Passing NDAA is critical for national security,” said one Senate GOP aide. “We want to get it done. But members remain concerned about the vaccine mandate for military, which has created a military recruitment crisis.”
Blackburn introduced a separate bill in September that would end any punishment imposed against service members seeking religious accommodation to the Pentagon’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, after Biden said the pandemic is “over.”
The senator also offered two amendments to the NDAA in June to ensure military parents have control over their children’s education and that congressional funding for “woke” diversity, equity and inclusion Department of Defense programs would have more restrictions. Both amendments were defeated by Democrats during an Armed Services Committee markup.
“We have to have the troops and equipment necessary to keep us safe,” the GOP aide added, noting that much of the pushback is also coming from the House.
Earlier this month, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., called for delaying a vote on the NDAA until 2023 due to the woke policies that are included in the legislation.
“I’ve watched what the Democrats have done, especially in the NDAA, the ‘wokeism’ they want to bring in there,” McCarthy said during a pre-Thanksgiving press conference. “I actually believe the NDAA should be held up until the first of the year, and let’s get it right.”
Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., explained why he voted against the fiscal year 2023 NDAA in a statement from July: “Medical tyranny and wokeness do not improve our ranks — these policies undermine them and our combat readiness, subsequently undermining our national security. Furthermore, it’s both baffling and incredibly revealing that the Left’s ideology and vaccination obsession are prioritized at a time when every branch is struggling to reach recruitment and retention goals.”
The conservative Heritage Foundation released a report over the summer, urging Congress to remove provisions in the NDAA that would “foster corporate wokeness.” The House bill, which passed in July and now is being negotiated in the Senate, contains a provision that would require public companies to annually disclose “the racial, ethnic, gender identity, sexual orientation, and veteran status of their board directors, nominees, and senior executive officers,” according to the report. In addition, the provision would create a group that would focus on “increasing corporate diversity.”
“Aside from the obvious question of how such a provision was determined as appropriate for inclusion in a defense policy bill, the larger issue is that this requirement has no place in U.S. corporate governance,” states the Heritage report.
Republicans have promised to clean up “wokeness” in the U.S. military once they regain the majority in Congress.
“I think it’s one of our very top priorities to clean up the mess the administration has made with the excessive and dangerous COVID mandates on our troops at a time where we have historically low recruitment,” said Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
Banks continued, “When it comes to the posture hearings and the legislative process of the NDAA, I think you can expect more of the same from what you’ve seen the last couple of years.”
Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., the House Armed Services Committee ranking member, previously said that the GOP will be putting military personnel issues at the forefront of the agenda come January and also vowed to take aim at “woke” Pentagon policies.
Fox News Digital’s requests for comment from the GOP ranking members on the House and Senate Armed Services Committee regarding the NDAA were not returned.
Fox News’ Michael Lee contributed to this report.