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Defense bill's passage threatened by abortion amendment, limits on Ukraine funding

Amendments may derail defense bill's passage
Some Republicans threatening to derail passage of annual defense spending bill 03:59

Washington — The House adopted a controversial amendment to the annual National Defense Authorization Act that would ban the Pentagon from covering travel expenses for service members seeking abortions, potentially dooming the bill's passage. 

House Democratic Whip Katherine Clark told CBS News earlier Thursday that Democrats would "oppose the bill" if it contains the amendment on the abortion policy. Republicans can only afford to lose four votes without Democratic help. 

In the Senate, GOP Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville has been blocking military nominations and promotions over the military abortion policy, which covers certain abortion-related travel expenses for service members based in states with restrictive reproductive healthcare laws. Tuberville is exercising the hold until the Pentagon or new legislation changes the policy.

Clark said Democrats would also "fight" on the floor against other "culture war" amendments to the defense bill. They include cutting diversity, equity and inclusion offices and prohibiting the use of federal funding for diversity, equity and inclusion training.

There are also Republicans who want to add language prohibiting the sale or transfer of cluster munitions to Ukraine and cutting Ukraine funding by $300 million. The vote on the Ukraine funding amendment easily failed. 

The top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, Washington Rep. Adam Smith, told CBS News on Tuesday that Republican leadership would likely need Democratic votes to pass the defense bill, because he expected a "chunk" of Republicans to oppose it over funding for Ukraine. 

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries has accused Republicans of jeopardizing its passage. 

"It's outrageous that this is what Republicans are doing," Jeffries said. "With the defense bill, it should be about our national security."

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said he is hopeful the defense bill will pass by Friday with bipartisan support. McCarthy said he supported the abortion amendment introduced by Republican Rep. Ronny Jackson, even as some moderate members of his party have voiced concern. 

Republican Rep. Nick LaLota, a member of the Armed Services Committee, said the amendments should be separate from the defense bill. 

"Congress must pass the NDAA," LaLota tweeted Thursday. "The amendments which would cause the NDAA to fail put our military's lethality at risk and should be debated outside of the NDAA. We cannot play games with our soldiers' lives, pay, or military readiness." 

Only two Republicans voted against including Jackson's abortion amendment in the final bill. 

Scott MacFarlane and Nikole Killion contributed reporting. 

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