Rep. Hartzler wants another shot at anti-trans military amendment

By : Chris Johnson of the Washingston Blade, Courtesy of the National LGBT Media Association
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Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) is looking for another shot at her amendment that would have barred the Pentagon from paying for transition-related health care for transgender service members, according to Politico.

In the aftermath of the U.S. House narrowly rejecting the amendment as part of the fiscal year 2008 defense authorization bill, Hartzler is reportedly leading “a mix of GOP defense hawks and conservatives” to include the measure in a different spending bill that will soon arrive on the floor.

“Steps must be taken to address this misuse of our precious defense dollars,” Hartzler said in a statement to Politico. “This policy hurts our military’s readiness and will take over a billion dollars from the Department of Defense’s budget. This is still an important issue that needs to be addressed.”

As introduced by Hartzler the last time around, the amendment would prohibit the Pentagon from made expenditures in its health system for transition-related care, including hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery, for both service members and their dependents.

According Politico, supporters of the amendment are urging House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to use a procedural trick to include the amendment automatically as part of the spending bill. Failing that, they’re requesting another floor vote on the amendment as part of consideration for the base bill.

The House last week Voted Down the Hartler amendment by a 214-209. Twenty-four Republicans and all 190 Democrats present voted against the measure.

According to Politico, most Republicans expected the Hartzler amendment to pass overwhelmingly and were surprised when it failed. (Ryan told the Washington Blade during his news conference he supported the measure and predicted it would pass.) The morning after the defeat of the amendment, Republicans spent a good chuck of a closed-door GOP conference meeting harping about what happened, the Politico reported.

Conceivably, the measure could pass the second time around. Six Republican last time didn’t vote or were absent (including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who’s recovering from a gun shot wound). Rep Brian Mast (R-Fla.), who voted against the provision, has since said his vote was in error and he meant to vote for it.

Caroline Boothe, a House Rules Committee spokesperson, said Hartzler hasn’t yet submitted an amendment for potential consideration as part of the defense appropriations bill.

“We have yet to receive the Hartzler amendment again for the bills next week,” Boothe said. “But when we do, the Committee will consider it like we do any other amendments.”

According to Politico, senior Republican sources predicted leadership would deny the request to add Hartzler amendment’s to a House rule because it would circumvent regular order. Whether a separate floor amendment on the proposal would be allowed is unclear.

Openly transgender service has been the rule for the U.S. military for about a year in the aftermath of an Obama-era policy change that lifted the regulatory ban on their service. Transgender people can come out in the military without fear of discharge, but openly transgender people still can’t enlist. Defense Secretary James Mattis pushed back the target date for that change until Jan. 1 pending a review of transgender service.

Media outlets reported when Hartzler offered her around last week, Mattis privately contacted her to urge her to withdraw the measure. White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short denied the White House whipped a “no” vote on the measure, although he said there was a question about whether it should be include in the defense authorization bill.

Aaron Belkin, director of the San Francisco-based Palm Center, blasted Hartzler in a statement for not giving up on her amendment, accusing of inventing false data to bolster her case against transgender military service.

“Thousands of transgender troops have been serving for an entire year, and they have been widely praised by Commanders,” Belkin said, “and 18 foreign militaries allow transgender personnel to serve. Transgender military service works, and pretending that it does not requires inventing data. This is the same, discredited strategy that opponents used to prop up the failed ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy the first time around.”

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