BY CHRIS JOHNSON, WASHINGTON BLADE
On the heels of her tirade in committee over allowing transgender people to serve in the U.S. military, Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) has proposed an amendment that would bar the Defense Department from providing transition-related care for troops.
The amendment was among the many submitted to the House Rules Committee by the Friday deadline in anticipation of a floor vote on major defense policy legislation for fiscal year 2018. The committee is set to meet this week to review and accept amendments ahead of the vote on the $697 billion bill.
Hartzler’s amendment would add a section to U.S. code for the military’s health care system barring funds for treatment — other than mental health treatment — related to gender transition. That would mean transition care like hormone therapy and gender reassignment would be off limits to transgender troops.
A similar amendment proposed by anti-LGBT Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) is on the list of proposed amendments for the defense authorization bill, but the House Rules Committee website designates the proposal as withdrawn. Presumably, the lawmakers believed it was too similar to the Hartzler amendment to warrant consideration.
It remains to be seen whether the House Rules Committee, which is heavily stacked 11-4 in favor of Republicans, will approve Hartzler’s amendment for consideration. If the amendment is accepted, it would be the first time the U.S. House floor has considered an amendment against transgender rights.
Hartzler proposed the amendment after railing last week during the House Armed Services Committee markup of the defense authorization bill against transgender military service, calling it “ill-conceived.”
The Missouri Republican proposed — then withdrew without a vote — an amendment barring transgender people from serving in the armed forces, but threatened to reintroduce it if the Pentagon didn’t reverse the Obama-era policy change in favor of openly transgender service.
Shortly afterward, the Pentagon announced it would delay a plan to allow openly transgender people to enlist in the armed forces by July 1 for another six months, although the policy barring the military from kicking them out remains in place. Hartzler introduced her amendment despite the rollback, although it seems less ambitious than her threat during committee.
During the committee markup, Hartzler cited a dubious figure that paying for gender reassignment surgery for U.S. troops would cost $1.35 billion over the next 10 years with only 30 percent of individuals electing to transition. That figure is significantly higher than the RAND Corp.’s estimate that those surgeries consume between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually out of the Pentagon’s multi-billion dollar budget.
It’s unclear where Hartzler came up with her figure. Hartlzer told USA Today she believes the RAND Corp. study was “flawed” and reportedly said her staff came up with its own figure using research from other sources.
Another amendment submitted to the Rules Committee by Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) would express the sense of Congress LGBT service members, including transgender personnel, should “be commended for their service to the United States.” The Republican-controlled Rules Committee is unlikely to move the amendment.