The New Democrat Coalition, which says it has a 98-House member bloc, is ramping up pressure on Speaker Kevin McCarthy to reject hardliners in his party and instead work with Republicans and Democrats to pass its annual defense legislation in a timely manner.
“Speaker McCarthy must choose between caving to the most extreme elements of his party that seek to compromise our national defense or working with sensible lawmakers to support all of our troops,” New Democrat Coalition Chairs jointly announced Tuesday.
The urge to pursue a bipartisan path comes as leadership must navigate right-wing lawmakers pushing for a slew of hot button amendments that could put moderate Republicans in a complicated position and threaten Democratic support for the must-pass bill.
The House Rules Committee is meeting Tuesday to decide which of the over 1,500 amendments that have been submitted will actually be made in order, with the GOP leaders hoping to pass the final bill on the floor by the end of this week.
The National Defense Authorization Act, which outlines the policy agenda for the Department of Defense and the US military and authorizes spending in line with the Pentagon’s priorities, passed out of the House Armed Services committee with overwhelming bipartisan support, even though some controversial GOP amendments – including a ban on drag shows on military bases and the reinstatement of troops who refused to comply with the Pentagon’s vaccine mandate – were adopted.
While drama isn’t new in fights over the NDAA, which has been passed by Congress every year for the last six decades, this level of acrimony is notable. After receiving heat for the debt ceiling deal struck earlier this year, McCarthy is under increasing pressure to cater to his right flank, ratcheting up concerns about the ability for lawmakers to reach a compromise that both chambers can agree on.
Republicans can only afford to lose two votes on the committee on a party-line vote, and McCarthy placed three far-right members on the panel in exchange for becoming speaker. At least one of the conservative lawmakers on the panel, Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina, told CNN he plans to oppose the rule.
This story has been updated with additional updates.