Two dozen House Republicans joined Democrats Thursday in rejecting an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would have blocked the Pentagon from funding gender reassignment surgery for service members.
The 214-209 vote turned back an amendment proposed by Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., who said the military budget must be focused on protecting the nation.
Hartzler argued Thursday during the House debate on her amendment that money should only be used for defense priorities and not in ways that could hurt military readiness.
“There are many problems, but funding transition surgeries with tax dollars is problematic because the surgery is very costly,” Hartzler said. “Surgical recovery time decreases the deployability of our soldiers, and funding transition surgeries means diverting money from other defense priorities.”
“We must have soldiers who can deploy if called upon,” she added. “Military members undergoing transition surgery are non-deployable for up to 267 days. Similarly, regular hormone treatments render individuals non-deployable into the future. It makes no sense to create soldiers who are unable to fight and win our nation’s wars and unfair to non-transitioning individuals who must leave their families and deploy in their place.”
Hartzler said the issue at stake is not the rights of transgendered service members, but America’s need to be safe.
“This is about addressing [North] Korea, Russia, ISIS,” Hartzler said. “We need every defense dollar to go to meeting those threats, not anything else, and we need to make sure our troops are ready and can be deployed.”
Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, R-Calif., was more blunt.
“You’re joining the U.S. military. Choose what gender you are before you join,” he said. “We’re not stopping transgender people from joining. We’re saying taxpayers in this country right now are not going to foot the bill for it.”
Democrats, however, said the step Hartzler proposed was not sought by the military.
CNN reported that Defense Secretary James Mattis had contacted Hartzler to ask her to withdraw the amendment. That report could not be confirmed.
“No one in the Pentagon has called for this,” said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y. “In fact, we know right now Secretary of Defense Mattis is running a review of this issue. He does not need to be micromanaged by members of this body to advance their own agendas.”
Mattis said recently that the military needed another six months to evaluate whether and how to comply with an Obama-era policy that would open the doors of the military to transgendered recruits.
Several LGBT groups opposed Hartzler’s amendment.
“To be clear, this vile amendment is a vicious attack on service members who are sacrificing so much and putting their lives on the line for our country,” said Ashley Broadway-Mack, president of the American Military Partner Association. “As if that’s not outrageous enough, it would also rip away the medically necessary health care of transgender family members. This is vitally important care that military families are already receiving, and these medical decisions should be left to medical professionals and their patients.”
BizPac Review listed the Republicans voting against Hartzler’s amendment as: Reps. Justin Amash and Jack Bergman of Michigan; Mike Coffman of Colorado; Barbara Comstock of Virginia; Paul Cook, Jeff Denham, Darryl Issa and Steve Knight of California; Ryan Costello, Charlie Dent, Brian Fitzpatrick and Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania; Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida; John Faso, John Katko, Tom Reed, Elise Stefanik and Claudia Tenney of N.Y; Leonard Lance, Frank LoBiondo and Tom MacArthur of New Jersey; Brian Mast of Florida; and Dave Reichert of Washington.
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