House approves defense authorization bill: How the Iowans voted

The U.S. House on July 12 approved a draft National Defense Authorization Act, setting military policy for the coming fiscal year. The final vote on passage split mostly along party lines, 220 to 197 (roll call).

Along the way, House members considered dozens of amendments, and the controversial ones received separate roll call votes. On most of those votes, Iowa’s delegation divided as one would expect: Democratic Representatives Abby Finkenauer (IA-01), Dave Loebsack (IA-02), and Cindy Axne (IA-03) voted with most of the Democratic caucus, while Republican Steve King (IA-04) was on the other side.

But one or more Iowa Democrats voted with the majority of House Republicans on quite a few proposals. Axne did so most often, siding with most GOP colleagues rather than with her own caucus on fourteen amendments.

This post uses official amendment descriptions as published on the Govtrack website. Where necessary, I’ve linked to other sources for explanations of the various proposals. I’ve grouped the votes into four categories.


Most often, Finkenauer, Loebsack, and Axne sided with the majority of House Democrats when the chamber was considering the defense authorization bill. If you want to see which other House members crossed party lines on any given proposal, click on any of the vote numbers below to view the roll calls.

Smith amendment to “require an annual report on strikes undertaken by the United States against terrorist targets to be submitted by the Director of National Intelligence instead of the Secretary of Defense”: passed 236 to 193

Speier amendment to “require that qualifications for eligibility to serve in an armed force account only for the ability of an individual to meet gender-neutral occupational standards and not include any criteria relating to the race, co”: passed 242 to 187

Speier amendment to “require the Department of Defense to establish a standardized educational program across all branches of the military to be provided during the first year of service for a member”: passed 231 to 199

Brindisi amendment to “require stainless steel flatware procured by the Department of Defense to be reprocessed, reused, or produced in the United States”: passed 243 to 187

Torres amendment to “prohibit the President from removing items from Categories I through III of the United States Munitions List […]”: passed 225 to 205

Connolly amendment to “prohibit the President or his designee from transferring or consolidating any functions, responsibilities, programs, staff or resources of the Office of Personnel”: passed 247 to 182

Shalala amendment to “require the Secretary of Defense to publish online the distribution of DOD Tuition Assistance Funds at institutions of higher education, and audit any proprietary institution receiving DOD Tuition Assistance funds”: passed 251 to 178

Smith amendment to “amend the current statutory prohibition on members of Congress contracting with the federal government to include the President, Vice President, and any Cabinet member”: passed 243 to 186

Sherman amendment to “prohibit funds from being used to transfer defense articles or services to Azerbaijan unless the President certifies to Congress that the articles or services do not threaten civil aviation”: passed 234 to 195

Lieu amendment to “prohibit funds from the Special Defense Acquisition Fund to aid Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates if such assistance could be used to conduct or continue hostilities in Yemen”: passed 239 to 187

Lieu amendment to “prohibit funds from being used to transfer any defense articles or services to Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates under the emergency authority”: passed 246 to 180

Smith amendment to “prohibit support to and participation in the Saudi-led coalitions military operations against the Houthis in Yemen”: passed 240 to 185

Engel amendment to “make changes to current law related to policies and planning to ensure civilian protection, including procedures for incidents involving civilian casualties”: passed 241 to 183

Engel amendment to “expresse [sic] that the U.S. should seek to extend the New START Treaty, unless Russia is in material breach of the Treaty, or the U.S. and Russia have entered into a new agreement that has equal or greater constraints”: passed 236 to 189

Lieu amendment to “prohibit the use of funds from being obligated or expended at properties owned by the President or that bear his name, with a waiver made available if the President reimburses the Department of the Treasury”: passed 223 to 205

Raskin amendment to “prohibit the use of funds for an exhibition or parade of military forces and hardware, except for the display of small arms and munitions appropriate for customary ceremonial honors”: passed 221 to 207

Khanna amendment to “prohibit unauthorized military force in or against Iran”: passed 251 to 170

Lee amendment to “repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002”: passed 242 to 180

Malinowski amendment to “provide for a one-year prohibition on the sale of air-to-ground munitions used in the conflict in Yemen to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates […]”: passed 236 to 182

Jayapal amendment to “require the Comptroller General of the United States to submit to Congress independent studies regarding potential cost savings with respect to the nuclear security enterprise and force structure”: passed 230 to 189


On six amendments to the defense authorization act, all four Iowans landed on the same side. One of those was a successful Democratic proposal:

Cicilline amendment to “repeal existing restrictions on the United States from transferring and exporting weapons, and defense articles and services to the Republic of Cyprus”: passed 252 to 173, with an unusual amount of aisle-crossing (31 Democrats voted no, while 50 Republicans including King voted yes)

One was an uncontroversial Republican proposal:

Tipton amendment to “express the sense of Congress that military aviation training in Colorado, including the training conducted at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site,” is critical to national security: passed 417 to 6

The other four instances involved failed Democratic amendments.

Blumenauer amendment to “require an independent study on options to extend the life of the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles and delaying the ground-based strategic deterrent program”: failed 164 to 264 (68 Democrats voted against)

Lee amendment to “decrease funding for the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account by $16.8 billion”: failed 115 to 307 (120 Democrats voted against a budget reduction for what is often described as the Pentagon’s “slush fund”)

Ocasio-Cortez amendment to “prohibit the President from deploying troops on the southern border if the purpose of this deployment is to enforce immigration law”: failed 179 to 241 (52 Democrats voted against)

Ocasio-Cortez amendment to “prohibit the President from using the authorized funds to detain undocumented immigrants in Department of Defense facilities”: failed 173 to 245 (58 Democrats voted against)


During the debate on the defense authorization bill, there were four instances of Loebsack sticking with most of the Democrats, while Axne and Finkenauer voted with Republicans.

One involved a Democratic amendment that passed anyway:

Lee amendment to “express the sense of Congress that the 2001 AUMF has been utilized beyond the scope that Congress intended; and that any new authorization for the use of military force to replace the 2001 AUMF should include a sunset”: 237 to 183 (sixteen Democrats voted against)

One was an unsuccessful Democratic amendment:

Blumenauer amendment to “require the Under Secretary for Nuclear Security to conduct a study on the unexpected cost increases for the W80-4 nuclear warhead life extension program and prevents $185 million from being obligated or expended”: failed 198 to 229 (35 Democrats voted against)

One was a proposal from longtime Republican (recently turned independent) Justin Amash:

Amash amendment to “eliminate indefinite military detention of any person detained under AUMF authority in the U.S., territories, or possessions by providing immediate transfer to trial and proceedings by a court […]”: failed 187 to 236 (50 Democrats voted against ending indefinite detention without trial)

Finally, Axne and Finkenauer supported the GOP motion to recommit, which is the last vote before final passage and represents the minority party’s final chance to amend a bill:

Motion to recommit with instructions: failed 204 to 212. Sixteen Democrats voted for this motion, which “would have increased the military pay raise and poured additional funds into military maintenance accounts,” Patrick Kelley reported for Roll Call.


Five times on July 11 or 12, Finkenauer and Loebsack stuck with the majority of House Democrats, while Axne voted with most Republicans. Three times, the Democratic amendments (barely) passed anyway:

Omar amendment to “require the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to Congress on the financial costs and national security benefits of operating, improving, and maintaining overseas military infrastructure”: passed 219 to 210, only because eight Republicans voted for it. Axne was among 22 Democrats who opposed even gathering this information.

Thompson amendment to “prohibit DoD funding to house any foreign nationals who are in the custody of and detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement”: passed 213 to 204 (sixteen Democrats voted against)

Frankel amendment to “prohibit funding for missiles noncompliant with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty until the Secretary of Defense meets certain conditions”: passed 215 to 214 (seventeen Democrats voted against)

One instance involved an unsuccessful Republican proposal:

Turner amendment to “strike the provision relating to the prohibition on the use of funds for the deployment of low-yield ballistic missile warheads […]”: failed 201 to 221 (ten Democrats voted for this amendment) Jonathan Cohn noted, “Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (WA-09) eliminated funding for this weapon in the committee markup, rightfully viewing it as unnecessary.”

One was an unsuccessful Democratic proposal:

Garcia amendment to “prevent DOD facilities from being used to house or detain unaccompanied migrant children”: failed 198 to 223 (34 Democrats voted no)

I will seek comment from Finkenauer, Loebsack, and Axne on why they voted with the Republican caucus on any of the proposals described above and update this post as needed. Typically, Democrats join Republicans on such votes for one of two reasons: they agree with the minority party on the substance of the policy, or they don’t want to give conservatives fodder for attack ads during the next campaign.

Finally, I enclose below official statements from Finkenauer, Loebsack, and King regarding this bill. (I did not see any news release about the NDAA from Axne’s office.) Finkenauer and Loebsack highlighted provisions they had supported, which made it into the legislation. King called attention to one of his proposals, added to the bill through a voice vote. His news release did not mention that King voted against final passage of the defense authorization bill.

July 12 news release from Finkenauer’s office:


Military readiness and rural small business initiatives pass with bipartisan support

Washington, DC –Today, Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer (IA-01) voted for the bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020. This bill authorizes $733 billion for the Department of Defense, defense-related activities of the Department of Energy, and the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).

Congresswoman Finkenauer successfully secured key provisions in the bill that will benefit Northeast Iowa. The House passed Finkenauer’s amendment to the bill to shore up federal contracting opportunities for rural small businesses, building on the work of her first bill, the Stimulating Innovation Through Procurement Act.

The House Armed Services Committee included Finkenauer’s report language with the bill, requiring the Department of Defense to study shortfalls in military painter training. University of Northern Iowa’s STAR4D program is a national leader in this training, which is critical to helping reduce corrosion of military assets to ensure military readiness and reduce waste.

“I’m proud to be Northeast Iowans’ voice in Congress and to secure critical priorities for our district in this bipartisan legislation,” said Finkenauer. “It’s vitally important that our small businesses have opportunities to grow and innovate, whether they’re in our larger cities or more rural towns. I’m also proud that the Department of Defense will study military painter training, which I hope will bring attention to the good work already being done at the University of Northern Iowa.”

The legislation also includes a pay raise for servicemembers and numerous provisions to take care of military families including: improving military housing and childcare, cleaning up contaminated drinking water at military bases, and increasing access to educational opportunities for military spouses.

“We must ensure that our servicemembers and their families have the resources they need,” said Finkenauer. “Our men and women in uniform put their lives on the line for our freedom and it’s essential we support them and their families and expand opportunities for them.”

July 12 news release from Loebsack’s office:

FY2020 Defense Policy Bill Passes House with Loebsack-backed Jobs Provisions Included

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Dave Loebsack released the following statement on the House passage of the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which included provisions he authored. Loebsack, a former member the House Armed Services Committee, helped incorporate several provisions in this year’s legislation that will help create jobs here at home, increase defense research and strengthen the Rock Island Arsenal. The Senate will now consider its version of the bill and a joint House-Senate Conference Committee will convene to work out the differences between the two bills.

Loebsack worked to include a provision to extend Temporary Installation Reutilization Authority for leasing excess space at Army arsenals, depots, and plants through September 30, 2025. This will allow the Rock Island Arsenal to continue leveraging private investment through long-term facility use contracts, property management contracts, leases or other such agreements. It would also require the Secretary of Defense to report to Congress on the information technology, logistics, and security requirements necessary to create an internal listing service of Army assets available for lease. Loebsack also authored language included in the overall bill to boost STEM jobs and address the STEM jobs gap within the Department of Defense (DoD).

Additionally, Loebsack worked with the Armed Services Committee to include language in the bill report that will require the Secretary of Defense to report on the status of legislation included in last year’s defense bill that directs DoD to work with private industry and academia to accelerate development of human factors modeling and simulation technologies to support soldier training and performance. This will help strengthen cooperation between the DoD and existing human factors modeling and simulation research projects, including the University of Iowa’s Virtual Soldier Research program, further enhancing academic research and development and the University.

“Ensuring the men and women in our military have the tools and resources to properly defend our nation remains a top priority of mine. As a parent of military children, I am proud to have worked to deliver the level of support our troops need and deserve,” said Loebsack. “While this legislation does not include everything I would have hoped, the amendments I worked to incorporate into the bill will help ensure the Arsenal has the tools and resources it needs to remain competitive. I am also pleased that we have taken steps to drive more workload to the Rock Island Arsenal, which helps both the Arsenal and Quad Cities create jobs and help their economy remain strong.”

Congressman Loebsack helped author three provisions, which were included in the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act:

· Extension of Temporary Installation Reutilization Authority – This Loebsack-Bustos amendment extends the Temporary Installation Reutilization Authority for leasing excess space at Army arsenals, depots, and plants through September 30, 2025. This amendment is intended to help Army facilities, including the Rock Island Arsenal, leverage private investment through long-term facility use contracts, property management contracts, leases, or other such agreements. The extended leasing authority is designed to utilize unused administrative and warehouse space on the Island, helping to bring workload and continued employment to the Island. The amendment also requires the Secretary of Defense to report to Congress on the information technology, logistics, and security requirements necessary to create an internal listing service of Army assets available for lease. This reporting requirement will help shed light on the feasibility of creating an internal listing service that could facilitate greater and more streamlined use of the leasing authority between Army facilities and private entities.
· STEM Jobs – This amendment directs the Secretary of Defense to perform an assessment of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, as well as Maintenance and Manufacturing (STEM) workforce within the DoD, identify the types and quantities of STEM jobs needed to support future mission work, and develop a plan of action to address the STEM jobs gap. These jobs are a critical part of the organic industrial base workforce, and this amendment enhances the mission and the role of our nation’s arsenals and depots to ensure that maintenance and manufacturing are recognized as specialized, protected skills that DoD retains and protects. Representatives Bustos and Porter joined in support of this amendment as well.
· Human Factors Modeling and Simulation – This report language will require the Secretary of Defense to report to Congress on the implementation status of a provision included in the FY19 NDAA, which required the Secretary of Defense to develop and carry out human factors modeling and simulation activities to accelerating research and development that enhances capabilities for human performance, human-systems integration, and training for the warfighter. Under this reporting requirement, DoD will be required to brief Congress on the status of this requirement, specifically to what extent the activities are being carried out, the effects of these activities, activity participants such as academia and the private sector, locations of the activities, and the plan to sustain these activities in the future. This language will help ensure that human factors modeling and simulation research activities, like the University of Iowa’s Virtual Soldier Research program, are being utilized by the defense department to enhance training practices and improve outcomes for our nation’s warfighters. Senator Ernst successfully included identical language in the Senate-passed version of the bill.

Additionally, Loebsack pushed to include many provisions important to our troops and their families, including:

· Provides for a 3.1 percent pay increase for the troops;
· Repeals the “widow’s tax” which requires military surviving spouses to forfeit all or part of their military Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuity if they become eligible for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) payments when their spouse dies.
· Creates greater protections for military families by establishing a tenant’s bill of rights for residents of privatized military housing, requiring DoD to identify and measure health and safety hazards in housing, and providing additional funding to improve oversight and management of military family housing.
· Prohibits an additional round of BRAC.

July 12 news release from King’s office:

House Passes King Amendment Targeting China’s Abusive Surveillance State
“U.S. policy, including defense policy, should by no measure assist, intentionally or unintentionally, the growth of China’s surveillance.”

Washington, D.C.- Congressman Steve King releases these remarks following House passage of an amendment he offered to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that requires the Department of Defense to analyze China’s growing surveillance state to determine the threat it poses to American security interests. King’s amendment is now included within the House version of the NDAA legislation, which itself passed the House of Representatives on a nearly party-line vote of 220-197 this afternoon.

“I am encouraged that my amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year passed the House of Representatives by voice vote on July 11th, 2019. This important amendment requires the ‘Annual Report on Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China’ to include an assessment of (1) China’s expansion of its surveillance state; (2) Any correlation of such expansion with its oppression of its citizens and its threat to United States national security interests around the world; and (3) An overview of the extent to which such surveillance corresponds to the overall respect, or lack thereof, for human rights.

This matter is one that I have long been attuned to and concerned about, ultimately leading me to draft and introduce the ‘Protect American IPR Act’, which is H.R. 902 this session, and seeks to stop Chinese theft of U.S. intellectual property through duties on Chinese merchandise. For this reason, I have been encouraged to see President Trump prioritizing the Chinese stealing of American intellectual property.

Mass and unabated government surveillance does not only offend individual liberties; in the hands of an authoritarian government, it poses the Orwellian threat of the government always watching, and ultimately using this ability, made possible to an unprecedented extent by modern technology, to spy on, steal from, intimidate and persecute not only those it views as “political enemies” and “threats”, but anyone it deems as expedient.

This Orwellian threat is becoming a reality, perhaps nowhere more so than in China, where the government vigorously pursues a national video surveillance network. The affinity of the Chinese government to control its population in part by mass monitoring is not a new phenomenon, but advancing technology makes its prospects more frightening every day for those within and outside of the Mainland.

One internet privacy expert warns, “What China is doing here is selectively breeding its population to select against the trait of critical, independent thinking”. Since China is a neighbor to many and more importantly an actor on the world stage, that erosion will not simply negatively impact the Chinese, it will spread—it arguably has already. A world with continually less critical, independent thought is a prospect to tremble at.

It is my strong belief that U.S. policy, including defense policy, should by no measure assist, intentionally or unintentionally, the growth of China’s surveillance. Instead, it should discourage the expansion of the Chinese government into the rest of the world, while at the same time encouraging greater human rights for the Chinese people, including expectant mothers and Christians and other religious minorities.

I have heard from many individuals who warn against China’s rapid expansion and influence into the rest of the world, including Africa and Central America, our nation’s own backyard. Although the government-connected interests bring economic promise (and exploitation) to the developing world, they also bring the Chinese surveillance state with them. To counter this very real and growing threat, we need to first understand its scope, its impact for individuals in China as well as those around the world, and the extent to which it threatens the U.S. national security interests.”

The text of King’s House passed NDAA amendment may be read here.

Congressman King has also introduced legislation (HR 902) that is designed to provide redress to the holders of US intellectual property who have been victimized by Chinese theft. King’s legislation directs the President to impose duties on merchandise from China in an amount equivalent to the estimated annual loss of revenue to holders of U.S. intellectual property rights. The revenue raised by the imposition of duties on Chinese merchandise will be proportionally distributed to provide compensation to holders of United States intellectual property rights.

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