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On Friday, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed the FY2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with a vote of 219-210. The NDAA bill authorized $886 billion in spending for the Defense Department. 

Prior to Friday’s vote, the House has voted for the past 60 years to pass the NDAA with vast bipartisan support. This year was different. Votes came down nearly along partisan lines because of insertions by members of the extreme right of the Republican party who put in language that would not allow travel for military personnel to travel for abortions and anti-diversity training for military staff.  

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Native Americans serving in the House of Representatives voted down party lines. 

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK-4th District), a tribal citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, and Rep. Josh Brecheen (R-OK-2nd District), a tribal citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, are both Republicans and voted in favor of the legislation.

Rep. Sharice Davids (D-KS-3rd District), who is a tribal citizen of the Ho-Chunk Nation, and Rep. Mary Sattler Peltola (D-AK-At-Large), the first Alaska Native ever elected to Congress, voted against the measure.

Davids, who is serving in her third term in Congress, says she has voted for the NDAA every year since coming to Congress in a bipartisan fashion. However, she voted against the bill because it will limit reproductive health care for service members. 

The legislation will be debated in the Senate where the far-right provisions will be hotly contested in the Democratic-controlled body. 

After the vote, each of the representatives released comments through their congressional websites. Listed by seniority in the House, here is how each Native American responded:

Rep. Tom Cole:

“The NDAA is critical for our nation’s military to meet its mission and the bill passed out of the House today is strong and significant in ensuring our warfighters are manned, equipped and trained for the multitude of threats we face. This bill puts a halt to President Joe Biden’s attempt to return our military to that of the disastrous Obama-era by authorizing $863.3 billion in defense, a 28 percent increase from the fiscal year 2023 NDAA.

“While an increase from President Biden’s original request is achieved, this bill also would save taxpayers $40 billion without compromising our national security. This bill goes above and beyond by rejecting ideological indoctrination initiatives, requiring the Pentagon to remain focused on readiness and preparedness. It would also deliver the largest pay raise for our service members in 20 years, provide for measures to counter aggression from the Chinese Communist Party and other threats, increase oversight of military aid and invest in military families.

“The duty of Congress to provide for our common defense is not only constitutionally obligated, but an imperative function of this body and that is echoed in this legislation. I look forward to continuing this process with the Senate so Congress can pass a bipartisan, bicameral final product that reflects our commitment to our men and women in uniform and keeping Americans safe.”

Rep. Sharice Davids:

“Today, I voted against a plan that would put partisan politics and a far-right, anti-abortion agenda above our national security and the well-being of our service members,” said Davids. “It is absolutely outrageous that extremists are being allowed to hold support for our military hostage, and I plan to continue working to find common-sense, bipartisan solutions that help our service members and keep our country safe.”

Rep. Mary Peltola:

“Today I took one of the most difficult votes I’ve ever had to take. The defense bill on the floor today was not the same bipartisan bill that came out of committee. House leadership let the most extreme members of Congress load it up with amendments designed to create political attack ads while removing access to health care for millions of Americans who are employed by the Department of Defense, and their families.

I will always support our brave servicemen and women. I also believe that they are equal citizens, just like the rest of us. That means they have the same rights to privacy and choice in their medical decisions that any other American should have. We shouldn’t be pitting pay raises that they deserve against the reproductive freedoms that they also deserve. That is a false choice, created for purely political reasons, and I look forward to negotiations with the Senate’s version of the bill where this issue will be discussed further. I will strongly advocate a return to the bipartisan, policy-focused bill that came out of committee, and will gladly vote for a bill that fully protects our troops and their families.”

Rep. Josh Brecheen:

“We need our troops to be lethal and truly prepared for war, instead of being pawns in Joe Biden’s culture wars, where he has used our men and women in uniform to advance a woke and hyper-sexualized ideology. Today, House Republicans are ending Joe Biden’s drag queen story hour reading experiment with our troops.

This legislation is the most conservative NDAA in recent history.  We are saying goodbye to the Defense Department’s taxpayer-subsidized abortions where your taxpayer dollars were paying to transport people to obtain abortions. We are putting a stop to spending your taxpayer dollars on gender transition surgeries. We are eliminating the Defense Department’s DEI office, that prioritized race over military readiness. And we’re prohibiting DoD from purchasing and having pornographic and radical gender ideology books in their libraries.”

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About The Author
Levi Rickert
Author: Levi RickertEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Levi "Calm Before the Storm" Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert was awarded Best Column 2021 Native Media Award for the print/online category by the Native American Journalists Association. He serves on the advisory board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at [email protected].