A majority in the House voted down a proposal to restrict funding for transgender members of the military, standing by social policy changes enacted by the Pentagon under former President Barack Obama.
Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., succeeded in forcing a vote, arguing that Obama's "transgender decision is costly in dollars and short on common sense." The attempted rollback failed on a 209-214 vote, however, as 24 Republicans joined a unanimous Democratic caucus in opposing the proposal.
"The Obama transgender policy, which was implemented without input from members of Congress, is ill-conceived and contrary to our goals of increasing troop readiness and investing defense dollars into addressing budget shortfalls of the past," Hartzler said in June. "By recruiting and allowing transgender individuals to serve in our military we are subjecting taxpayers to high medical costs including up to $130,000 per transition surgery, lifetime hormone treatments, and additional surgeries to address the high percentage of individuals who experience complications."
Her amendment would have barred the Defense Department from "provid[ing] medical treatment (other than mental health treatment) related to gender transition" to members of the military. Proponents of transgender military service argued that her proposal "would reduce military readiness" by discouraging transgender Americans from serving.
"It would have a negative impact on morale, a negative impact on retention and move us away from the merit-based system which we now have, where we have one set of rules applied to everybody," Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., who co-chairs the LGBT Equality Caucus, said Wednesday.
Hartzler maintained that her amendment would increase readiness, however. "The deployability of individuals going through the sex transition process is highly problematic, requiring 210 to 238 work days where a soldier is non-deployable after surgery," she said. "This recovery time equates to 1.4 million manpower days where transgender personnel cannot deploy and fight our nation's wars, therefore relying on an already stressed force to pick up the burden. It makes no sense to purposely recruit individuals who cannot serve."
Her effort to force a vote on the amendment passed through the Rules Committee on a party-line vote, but enough Republicans broke ranks to give Democrats a majority on the House floor.