“We’re removing the woke ideology from the military,” stated Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., as he emphasized the need to return the country to conservative values. Another Republican lawmaker, Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., expressed his concern about the demoralization of troops caused by leaders wearing dresses or participating in drag shows.

Conservatives believe that the battle against woke policies is taking place within the Pentagon. Their goal is to eliminate these policies from the armed forces through the defense policy bill of this year. Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., proudly announced his amendment to ban Critical Race Theory (CRT) from military instruction.

The House Armed Services Committee initially approved the annual defense plan with a vote of 58-1. This package could have passed on the House floor with support from both Democrats and Republicans. However, the current House Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who holds a slim majority, allowed conservatives to voice their opinions on the legislation, even though those priorities may not make it into the final version.

Over 1,500 amendments were filed by House members for the annual defense policy bill. The amendments are subject to a dynamic process on the floor, making it difficult to determine which ones will pass or fail. The measure changes in real-time based on the adoption or rejection of amendments, causing lawmakers who initially supported the bill to have different opinions as it evolves. Conversely, some lawmakers may change their stance based on the inclusion of provisions more aligned with their preferences.

Abortion, transgender surgeries, and diversity initiatives became the central focus of the debates surrounding the defense bill, overshadowing discussions about missiles and troops. Rep. Mike Collins, R-Ga., boldly stated that they were voting against the left-wing, socialistic, woke agenda and prioritizing the protection of American citizens.

Conservatives aimed to ban the use of the military’s health plan to cover transgender treatments and to restrict books with what they deemed as “radical gender ideology” in military libraries. Rep. Burchett proposed an amendment to require men to register for the draft if they identify as such. However, Burchett’s amendment did not receive formal consideration on the floor.

The most significant issue for conservatives was their effort to limit reimbursements for troops and individuals under the military health care system who sought abortions across state lines. Republicans came under criticism from Democrats for including this amendment, with some accusing them of wanting to live in the past. Democrats warned that if the amendment were to pass, it would threaten the entire defense bill.

Despite concerns voiced by certain Republicans, the defense bill ultimately passed in the House with a vote of 219-210. The social issue amendments attracted the support of skeptical conservatives, though some Democrats would have voted in favor had the bill not strayed so far from the center.

Democrats reminded Republicans that the House version of the bill is not the final decision and raised objections to some provisions, considering them detrimental to the military. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., referred to these provisions as “malignant.” The bill will now go to a conference committee, where representatives from both the House and Senate will negotiate the final version.

Conservatives are closely watching House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to ensure that the bill does not undergo significant changes. McCarthy’s previous deal with Democrats and President Biden regarding the debt ceiling has made conservatives wary. Should the bill deviate too much from its current form, they may withhold their support.

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