on the hill

House passes 2025 defense bill, with new Middle East provisions

The chamber approved amendments blocking the Pentagon from flying refugees from Gaza to the U.S. and cutting support for the humanitarian pier

Nathan Howard/Getty Images

The U.S. Capitol is seen after Former President Donald Trump addressed House Republicans Conference meeting at the Capitol Hill Club on June 13, 2024 in Washington, DC. Former President Donald Trump returned to Capitol Hill in his first meetings since the Jan.6, 2021 attacks, to meet with Republican congressional members.

The House of Representatives on Friday approved its version of the 2025 National Defense Authorization Act, the annual defense and national security policy bill. The Senate Armed Services Committee, meanwhile, approved its own version of the bill on Friday.

Though the NDAA was widely bipartisan when it passed the House Armed Services Committee, amendments incorporated on the House floor on hot-button cultural issues largely led Democrats to oppose the bill. Only six Democrats — Reps. Henry Cuellar (D-TX), Don Davis (D-NC), Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-WA), Jared Golden (D-ME), Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX) and Mary Peltola (D-AK) voted for the NDAA. Conservative isolationist Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Matt Rosendale (R-MT) voted against the bill.

On the floor, mostly along partisan lines, the House approved an amendment seeking to block the use of American military aircraft to transport Palestinians from Gaza to the U.S., which had failed in the Armed Services Committee. All Republicans, except Rep. Nick LaLota (R-NY) voted for the amendment.

Multiple amendments seeking to block the use of Department of Defense funding to maintain or operate the U.S.-constructed Gaza humanitarian pier, which has been the subject of repeated issues, passed by a voice vote within a larger “en bloc” package of amendments.

An amendment requiring a reassessment of, and public report on, the relationship between the U.S. and South Africa, prompted in part by the South African government’s relationship with Iran and other U.S. adversaries and its pursuit of a genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice, passed 272-144.

The amendment divided House Democrats, with 61 voting yes and 143, plus Massie, voting no.

Most amendments related to Middle East policy were approved by voice votes as part of en bloc packages, including one requiring the Pentagon to offer strategies for the U.S., Israel and Egypt to counter tunneling and other smuggling operations by terrorists along the Egyptian border, as well as outline known tunnels along that border.

In its operations in southern Gaza, Israel has reported discovering tunnels between Gaza and Egypt, a smuggling route into the coastal enclave.

An amendment seeking to implement anti-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions provisions — banning the sale of goods from companies engaged in boycotts of Israel in military stores and commissaries — also passed.

The House approved an amendment revoking security clearances from any active or retired military personnel who have expressed support for a terrorist group or engaged in a demonstration supporting a terrorist group.

Lawmakers highlighted this issue after Aaron Bushnell, an active-duty service member, died by self-immolation during a protest outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C.

The House approved several amendments seeking greater cooperation between the U.S., Israel and other Middle East defense partners, particularly in high-tech sectors, including ones creating an exchange program with Middle East partners, supporting U.S.-Israel space cooperation, authorizing a program for the U.S. and Israel to jointly develop military capabilities in emerging technological fields and establishing a partnership between the U.S.’ Defense Innovation Unit and the Israeli military.

Another approved amendment would require the Defense Department to establish or maintain a subterranean training facility for special operations units.

A series of other approved amendments would require reports to Congress on American efforts to help Israel find and secure the release of the remaining hostages in Gaza; the possibility of integrating Israel into the U.S. technology industrial base; the accuracy of Gaza Ministry of Health casualty statistics; the expansion of Iran’s nuclear enrichment activities; U.S.-Israel counter-drone programs; potential space-based threats from Iran and other adversaries; Iran’s use of oil exports to finance malign activity; Iran’s support for terrorist groups in North Africa; Iran’s relationship with China; Iran’s involvement in the drug trade; and multilateral military exercises in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Approved messaging amendments express support for Israel, demand the release of hostages and express support for Israel’s Iron Dome system.

The House rejected an amendment to restrict funding to Ukraine, with just 74 Republicans voting in favor — a smaller number than supported a similar amendment to the previous year’s NDAA.

The chamber voted along largely partisan lines for amendments seeking to restrict diversity and counter-extremism efforts at the Pentagon.

An amendment to permanently freeze hiring for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion positions at the DoD passed 216-206, with Republican Reps. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-OR) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) voting no, and Rep. Greg Landsman (D-OH) voting yes.

An amendment to eliminate and ban the Pentagon’s DEI office and affiliated personnel passed 211-208, with Reps. Don Bacon (R-NE), Jay Obernolte (R-CA), Mike Turner (R-OH), Fitzpatrick and Chavez-DeRemer voting no. Chavez-DeRemer, Fitzpatrick, Turner and Rep. Tom Kean (R-NJ) also opposed an amendment to eliminate the Pentagon’s chief diversity officer position, which passed 214-210.

Fitzpatrick was the only Republican who opposed an amendment eliminating the Pentagon’s Countering Extremist Activity Working Group, which passed 215-206.

Meanwhile, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted 22-3 to advance its version of the bill, the full text of which has not yet been released.

According to an executive summary released by the committee, it includes language condemning the Oct. 7 attack and supporting increased U.S. military efforts to provide humanitarian aid in Gaza. The bill offers increased support for U.S.-Israel counter-tunneling cooperation, proposes an additional $47.5 million for cooperation in emerging technologies and authorizes the Pentagon to provide Israel with assistance and support in pursuing Hamas leaders.

It requires reports to Congress any time Iran transfers weapons to non-state groups or other countries and on the Gaza pier.

It authorizes an exchange program with Middle East allies similar to that outlined in the House bill, as well as includes the text of the STARS Act, seeking increased cooperation with Middle East partners to counter space-based threats.

Subscribe now to
the Daily Kickoff

The politics and business news you need to stay up to date, delivered each morning in a must-read newsletter.