Republicans Tee Up Challenge to Open Transgender Military Service Ahead of House Majority

Airman at Silicon Valley Pride Parade in San Jose.
An airman from the California Air National Guard’s 129th Rescue Wing wears a lanyard celebrating Pride, Aug. 28, 2022, during the Silicon Valley Pride Parade in San Jose, California. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Crystal Housman)

Republicans are laying the groundwork to challenge policies that aim to make the military more inclusive to transgender and gender-nonconforming troops when they hold a slim majority in the House next year.

On Tuesday, House Republicans pushed what's known as a "resolution of inquiry" to compel the Defense Department to turn over to Congress all documents created since President Joe Biden's inauguration that mention any of 11 terms related to gender identity, including "transgender," "gender affirmation" and "nonbinary."

The House Armed Services Committee, which is still controlled by Democrats for the next few weeks, shelved the resolution in a party-line vote Tuesday morning. But GOP committee members vowed to revisit it when they control the gavel next year.

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"DoD's current political appointees are pushing questionable policies on our troops just to satisfy the ideological agenda of a minority of Americans," Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., the committee's current ranking member and likely chairman next year, said at Tuesday's panel meeting. "Next year, the new majority will be conducting robust oversight of these issues, and we will demand accountability from this administration."

Since Biden became president, Republicans have railed against so-called "woke" policies they argue are contributing to the military's recruitment and retention struggles, problems military officials have instead attributed to outside factors such as a strong job market. The GOP has pledged to use its House majority to target that "wokeness."

While Republicans use the term "woke" to describe a wide range of policies they disagree with, most often the targeted policies are meant to make the military more inclusive.

Early in his tenure, Biden allowed transgender people to serve and enlist in the military openly, returning to a policy initiated by the Obama administration that was scuttled by the Trump administration.

Supporters of open transgender military service say that, at a time when the military needs any able-bodied person it can get, it makes no sense to exclude someone based on their gender identity.

But opponents of policies meant to make the military more diverse, such as the open transgender service policy, argue they distract from the military's core mission of preparing to fight and win wars, as well as use the armed forces for social experiments and political agendas.

Republicans have been introducing resolutions of inquiry on a variety of topics in recent weeks to signal their priorities for next year, such as one to compel an audit of Ukraine aid that was similarly shelved by the Democratic-controlled House Foreign Affairs Committee.

A resolution of inquiry is privileged, meaning supporters can force a vote on the House floor if the committee of jurisdiction doesn't act on it, so Democrats have been killing the resolutions in committee.

On Tuesday, Democrats pushed back on the GOP effort to target transgender service as a waste of time designed to score political points.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., called the request for "any and all" documents related to gender identity "the mother of all fishing expeditions."

"It's just stupid to not include people who could capably help the military because of past discriminations and bigotry," Smith said at the committee meeting. "This has definitely become a political hobbyhorse for the far-right to focus on our military and frankly to denigrate our military. ... So I hope that as we go forward into that next year and deal with this oversight, that we do it in an intelligent and thoughtful way that advances the cause of the military and doesn't simply play to a political agenda."

-- Rebecca Kheel can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @reporterkheel.

Related: Republicans Vow to Put 'Woke' Military in Crosshairs if They Win in November

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