Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) argued the measure 'will make it harder to recruit' military members.
The House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to improve transparency about the ongoing problem of white supremacists and neo-Nazis in the military and federal law enforcement. Every single Republican present voted no.
The party-line vote was 218-208 in favor of an amendment sponsored by Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) to "direct the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and the Secretary of Defense to publish a report that analyzes and sets out strategies to combat White supremacist and neo-Nazi activity in the uniformed services and Federal law enforcement agencies not later than 180 days after enactment and every six months thereafter."
The amendment's text requires that these reports include "the number of individuals discharged from the uniformed services due to incidents related to White supremacy and neo-Nazi activity," "the number of Federal law enforcement officers separated from federal agencies due to incidents related to White supremacy or neo-Nazi activity," a description of what happened in each incident, information about how the incidents were handled, and plans to address the problem.
He said the agency "laid out in a very clear presentation, defining what is domestic violent extremism, laying out the stages of development, highlighted seven cases of extremism in active-duty and former-duty servicemembers, and went on to describe — for commanders — steps they can take in prevention and reporting."
Noting that the amendment would help agencies track and address the problem, Schneider explained, "These are exceptions. They are rare, but we must do everything we can to identify them and thwart them before risks become reality."
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) denounced the amendment as "Orwellian" and said it "attempts to create a problem where none exists." He also predicted that potential military recruits would be so offended by even the existence of such a report that they would not join up:
Every member of the military who showed an interest or actual participation in a white supremacist or white nationalist group has faced discipline. The relevant branch either demoted the individual, discharged them, or otherwise disciplined the sympathizer. Further, the armed services have taken steps to address these concerns going all the way back to the 1980s.
At a time when it is difficult to recruit military and law enforcement, Democrats should be not be maligning their integrity by implying they're overrun with white supremacists and neo-Nazis. In fact, we have lost recently tens of thousands, forced out of service — military service — due to the vaccine mandate. We are way below in our recruiting levels. This type of malignancy, this type of imputation of bad conduct, in a generic form, in a generalized form, because that's what this amendment does, actually will make it harder to recruit.
Extremism is a real problem in the military. But Republican lawmakers have opposed even talking about the issue, suggesting that doing so is an attack on servicemembers and veterans.
At an October 2021 hearing by the House Veterans' Affairs Committee on domestic violent extremist groups targeting active and former military members for recruitment, Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) complained, "I hope every veteran in America is watching this hearing today and hearing from you and the majority in control of this committee that our veterans are so stupid and susceptible to becoming domestic terrorists that you and the Democrats have to save them from it," adding, "It's wildly offensive and dangerous."
After all 208 Republicans present voted against the amendment, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) tweeted a photo of the vote breakdown, writing, "We just voted to combat neo[-N]azis in our military and every single [R]epublican voted no."
Despite the GOP's unanimous opposition, the Schneider amendment will now be part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023, a must-pass bill to establish the budget and operating rules for the military for the upcoming year.
The House is expected to vote on final passage of the defense package by the end of this week.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.