- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 2, 2020

The Democrat-led House on Friday approved its version of a major Pentagon spending bill that would reverse President Trump’s ban on transgender troops serving in the military, part of a massive, six-bill $1.3 trillion appropriations package.

Lawmakers on Thursday adopted without drama an amendment to the defense spending bill offered by Rep. Jackie Speier, California Democrat, to prohibit military funds from being spent on implementing the controversial policy.

It’s the latest sign lawmakers are using the power of the purse to challenge Mr. Trump’s priorities, particularly in the military. Amendments being considered to a separate defense authorization bill has provisions that would defy Mr. Trump’s opposition to changing military bases named for Confederate figures or cut off funding for a planned troop withdrawal from Germany.

The House’s version of the appropriations bill also includes an amendment that prohibits Pentagon funds from being used “in contravention of the First Amendment,” while another amendment included bans funding for chemical substances that can be used for domestic riot control.

The six-bill bundle passed on as 217-197 vote, and faces an uncertain future in the Senate and a veto threat from the president. Still, it lays down some markers for the Democrats in the coming spending debates. The spending bills must be passed by Sept. 30 to avoid a government shutdown when the new federal fiscal year starts.

The transgender policy, which went into effect April 2019, effectively bans troops from serving in the military who have been diagnosed with a condition known as gender dysphoria and blocks current service members from transitioning genders.

Under the Pentagon’s existing guidelines, transgender people can serve in the U.S. armed forces — but only in line with regulations pertaining to their biological sex. Top officials can grant waivers.

Mr. Trump in 2017 abruptly announced the ban, reversing a decision made just before President Obama left office the year before.

The announcement was quickly slammed by Democrats and human rights organizations who argued that the policy was discriminatory and will hurt America’s reputation abroad.

The ruling has since been challenged several times in court and on Capitol Hill, where Democrats last year voted to block funds that contributed to implementing the ban.

While no Republicans openly supported the amendment, the minority declined to call for a roll-call vote when it passed Thursday.

The House previously has attempted to include the provision to reverse Mr. Trump’s ban in both the appropriations and defense authorization acts last year but was ultimately unsuccessful.

The bulk of the spending package is devoted to defense spending, and authorizes a 3% pay increase, over $9 billion for 91 new F-35 fighter jets, $22 billion for nine Navy ships and $758 million to soften damages to the defense industrial base caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Lawmakers also included $1 million to rename military bases and assets named for Confederate leaders.

The spending bill was approved just weeks after the House passed its version of the $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act, which includes similar provisions to rename military bases and authorizes the pay raise to troops.

“This package prioritizes the lives and livelihoods of the American people, and makes the strong investments needed to build a stronger future for every person,” said Rep. Nita Lowey, New York Democrat and chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee.

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