Troop Bill Off Base for Trump, GOP
These days, there aren’t a lot of things Congress does on time. That’s what makes the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) so unique. For 58 straight years — no matter who’s in power or what issues are being debated — the NDAA always passed. Of course, it hasn’t always been easy. There’ve been a few close calls over the years — including this one. Heading into yesterday afternoon’s vote, a lot people wondered if the record would fall on the Democrats’ watch. It didn’t. But the integrity of the bill certainly did.
Most years, just getting the military funded can be a battle. But in 2019, the toughest debate wasn’t between the two parties — it was inside the Democrats’ own caucus. For Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), whose liberal wing is used to voting against the NDAA, the heaviest lift was with the party’s radicals. Extremists like Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) were desperate to slash troops’ resources and turn the measure into another exercise in social activism.
Unfortunately, with control of the House, Democrats did put their stamp on the bill — turning a routine debate into a hyper-partisan process. “We think it’s more progressive than anything before, but it still has to get better," Jayapal said. After slogging through hundreds of amendments, Team Pelosi put a version on the floor that’s bound to make waves at the White House.
Apart from slashing $17 billion from the president’s budget request, the House included language that raised red flags on everything from transgenderism and military standards to abortion and bioethics. Under a proposal offered — and passed — by Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), the military would be forced to create a new "family planning” program that, not surprisingly, is completely undefined. At best, our troops would probably be subjected to liberal messaging on abortion. At worst, taxpayers would be forced to actually cover abortifacient drugs. A national defense bill, Republicans argued, is no place for either.
As usual, Pelosi’s party also took the opportunity to turn TRICARE into a free pill dispenser for controversial drugs like Plan B and ella, which can end a pregnancy. Although birth control was already a routine part of the military’s health care plan, this would mark the first time a law would explicitly require forms of contraception that kill embryos. Republicans fought the measure — arguing, like FRC, the Pentagon should be in the business of protecting people, including the unborn. Ultimately, though, they didn’t have the votes to stop it.
Other Democrats rallied around language that would water down the physical standards for troops. Once again, it was Speier lobbying — this time for “gender-neutral” performance measures. FRC, like many other conservatives, argued against the change. The last thing our military needs is to undermine our troops’ readiness with more political correctness. Making matters worse, the amendment, which passed, defines “sex” to include “gender identity,” an obvious swipe at the president’s restrictions on recruits who identify as transgender.
That’s especially interesting in light of the testimony of President Trump’s pick for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. During Thursday’s Senate Armed Services hearing, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley calmly deflected missiles from liberal Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), who challenged him on the administration’s transgender policy. In my view, we’re a standards-based military,“ Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley told the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing. "We’re concerned about the deployability and effectiveness of any of the service members.”
Hirono, who — like most extremists — wants a military rooted in social justice and identity politics, pressed harder. Would Milley, if confirmed, carry through with the transgender policy? The general explained that he would. “If you meet the medical, the behavior health, the conduct standards and the physical standards, etc., then it’s my view that you should be welcomed in and allowed," Milley replied. "I don’t believe there’s anything inherent in anyone’s identity to prevent them from serving in the military.” As President Trump has said, and Milley echoed yesterday, “It’s about standards, not an identity.”
For now, the House’s idea of military defense will move forward — setting the stage for a potentially explosive clash with the GOP Senate in conference and White House (which already threatened to veto the bill). As Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) pointed out, Pelosi should’ve taken a page from the Senate debate. “By an 86-8 vote, they came together… [voting for] a very bipartisan bill that focuses on making the right priorities for our national defense.” The House version, he pans, “takes a very harsh [and] anti-defense approach.” And still, he shook his head, “that’s not enough for them.” They’re going even farther to “try to bring amendments to appease the radical Left, socialist base of Speaker Pelosi’s wing.”
Originally published here.
Trump Judges Hit a Home Run in the Ninth
There’s a reason Planned Parenthood likes to challenge pro-life laws on the West Coast. They know the cases will eventually bubble up to the most liberal bench in the country — the Ninth Circuit. There’s just one problem. After almost three years of President Trump, their favorite appeals court isn’t exactly liberal anymore. And that’s throwing a major wrench into the abortion industry’s plans.
Elections have consequences, and they’ve been big ones for the make-up of America’s courts. Just this week, President Trump added another originalist to the Ninth Circuit bench, Daniel Bress — bringing the administration’s total for the much-maligned court to seven. For the first time in decades, the Ninth Circuit, which Trump has accused of being “out of control” with “a horrible reputation,” is on the verge of ideological balance. And for liberals, who rely on the courts to do what legislatures will not, the prospect of losing their grip is daunting.
On Thursday, abortion extremists started to feel the effects of the president’s court-leveling when the Ninth Circuit refused to stop the administration’s family planning rules from taking effect. In a shocking blow to Planned Parenthood’s ego, the judges ruled 7-4 that HHS’s rule stopping Title X grantees from promoting abortion could go into effect. Making the decision even more upsetting for liberals, two of the judges in the majority were Trump appointees.
If the rule goes into effect, groups like Leana Wen’s Planned Parenthood could stand to lose millions of dollars. Wen, who’s obviously unaccustomed to bad news from the Ninth, called the decision “devastating.” And not just for her bottom line, which could suffer a $60-million loss — but for the Left’s whole court-shopping strategy.
Originally published here.
Will Religious Freedom Survive In Syria?
If there was anyone more grateful for the election of Donald Trump than conservatives, it was almost certainly millions of the world’s persecuted. For almost a decade, they watched in dismay as America turned its back on entire populations, leaving faith groups to fend for themselves. When whole villages were wiped out in bloody rampages, they saw an American president who refused to even say the word “genocide,” let alone do anything about it. Their hope — and the hope of the world — seemed lost. Then came 2016, and the rise of a new administration that picked up the torch where Barack Obama dropped it.
Almost immediately, the message from this White House seemed to be: you are not alone. America will stand by you. It’s a mission — and message — that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo takes personally.
Next week, Secretary Pompeo, together with Ambassador Sam Brownback, are proving just how serious they are about this global crisis by gathering the most powerful foreign dignitaries, activists, and faith leaders from around the world in Washington to discuss religious freedom. This ministerial — the second of the Trump era — will encourage international leaders to make a stronger commitment to the fundamental human right of religious liberty. For a preview of this year’s event, check out this new Washington Examiner column by FRC’s Travis Weber and Arielle Del Turco.
As part of the events talking place all over D.C., FRC will be hosting a special panel with experts on this question:
Will Religious Freedom Survive in Northeast Syria? Together with Law and Liberty International, we’ll be featuring a dozen distinguished speakers Tuesday evening, including:
- Lord David Alton, Former Member of Parliament and Co-Founder of the Jubilee Campaig
- Bassam Ishak, President of the Syriac National Council and Co-head of the Representative Office of the Syrian Democratic Council
- Sinam Mohammed, Co-head Representative Office of Syrian Democratic Council in Washington, DC
- Tony Perkins, President, Family Research Council
- Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin, Executive Vice President, Family Research Council
- Travis Weber, Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs and Director of the Center for Religious Liberty, Family Research Council
- Haider Elias, President of Yazda
- Hallam Ferguson, Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Middle East Bureau at USAID
- His Grace Mar Awa Royel, Bishop of the Assyrian Church of the East for the Diocese of California and Secretary of the Holy Synod of the Assyrian Church of the East
- Chris Mitchell, CBN News Middle East Bureau Chief, Producer Jerusalem Dateline
Originally published here.
This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.