U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan predicted Sunday that the Democratic-controlled Senate would strip out controversial social policies from the country’s annual defense spending measure approved by the Republican-dominated House of Representatives.
The House last week narrowly approved the $886-billion defense package for the fiscal year starting in October, but acceded to demands from hardline conservative lawmakers to add provisions to limit abortion access for some service members while cutting transgender care and diversity training.
Normally, there is wide, politically bipartisan support in Washington for the annual defense spending measure, but the social policy amendments cast doubt on quick agreement before sending the bill to President Joe Biden for his signature. The Senate is considering its version of the legislation this week and then lawmakers would have to reach a compromise between the competing pieces of legislation.
Sullivan told CNN’s “State of the Union” show that the House-passed version “is never getting to the president’s desk.”
“This should be an area where politics stops and national security starts,” he said. “In the end, I believe wisdom will survive.”
The U.S. Congress has for six decades reached broad agreement on defense spending, viewing it as a national security issue for the protection of the country. But a small group of House Republican hardliners forced a vote on the social policies they want ended at the Pentagon.
With the Supreme Court a year ago overturning the national right to abortion, some states have enacted virtually total bans on the procedure. As a result, the Defense Department said that when any women stationed at military bases in states where abortion is illegal wanted to have abortion, it would pay for travel and medical expenses for the women to travel to a state where the procedure remains legal.
Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas told “Fox News Sunday” that if the Pentagon policy is ended, military women stationed in abortion ban states could still get an abortion by paying for it themselves and take part of their annual leave for the procedure.
The House-passed measure, known as the National Defense Authorization Act, sets U.S. defense policies for 2024 and is considered must-pass legislation. It was approved on a nearly party-line vote, 219-210. Aside from the abortion amendment, it would also curb transgender health care access and target diversity and inclusion programs in military recruitment efforts.
The bill includes a 5.2% pay increase for service members. It includes provisions to counter China’s influence and improve the overall U.S. military readiness and missile defense capabilities.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy defended passage of the measure, saying Republicans did “exactly what we had said we would do,” to force the Biden administration to “stop using taxpayer money to do their own wokeism.”
“A military cannot defend themselves if you train them in woke,” he added.
Democrats assailed passage of the Republican-backed amendments.
Representative Hakeem Jeffries, the House minority leader, said supporters of former President Donald Trump “have hijacked a bipartisan bill that is essential to our national security and taken it over and weaponized it in order to jam their extreme right-wing ideology down the throats of the American people.”
On another national security issue, Sullivan said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” show that U.S. officials remain concerned that North Korea will conduct another intercontinental ballistic missile test.
“I have been concerned for some time that North Korea would conduct what would be its seventh nuclear test,” Sullivan said.
“I don’t see any immediate indications that’s going to happen, but it would not come as a surprise if North Korea moves forward with another test with respect to its intercontinental ballistic missile capability,” he said.
In June, North Korea fired two short-range missiles off its east coast as Sullivan met his Japanese and South Korean counterparts in Tokyo.