41 Dems buck Pelosi in defense vote
© Greg Nash

A significant number of Democrats voted for the defense authorization Friday despite pressure from their leadership to oppose it over how it would fund the Pentagon.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and other Democratic leaders oppose the increased funding for the Pentagon's war fund (Overseas Contingency Operations) to circumvent spending limits under the 2011 budget deal that implemented sequestration. But 41 Democrats nonetheless voted for the defense bill that usually attracts a wide bipartisan coalition.

Most of the Democrats who voted for it are vulnerable lawmakers who will be top GOP targets in the 2016 election cycle or serve on the House Armed Services Committee, which crafted the legislation.

Pelosi, though, said the defense authorization "perpetuates instability" and sets unrealistic funding for the Pentagon budget. She suggested the vote further demonstrated that a majority of Democrats could sustain a presidential veto of legislation adhering to the GOP budget framework.


"Democrats stand for a strong national defense, and today, our members sent a strong message in support of giving our men and women in uniform and our military overall the certainty they need, not Republican budget gimmicks," Pelosi said in a statement.

Two of the defecting Democrats, Reps. Tammy Duckworth (Ill.) and Patrick Murphy (Fla.), are running for Senate. A vote against the defense authorization could have risked attack ads accusing them of not supporting the military, especially in a statewide race compared with a district race.

Duckworth is also an Iraq War veteran and serves on the Armed Services panel.

In an example of what those attacks ads could be like, Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerAmash's critics miss the fact that partisanship is the enemy of compromise A cautionary tale for Justin Amash from someone who knows Border funding bill highlights the problem of 'the Senate keyhole' MORE (R-Ohio) accused the 143 Democrats who voted against the legislation of "letting politics come before national security." BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerAmash's critics miss the fact that partisanship is the enemy of compromise A cautionary tale for Justin Amash from someone who knows Border funding bill highlights the problem of 'the Senate keyhole' MORE, however, has voted against the defense authorization twice - in 2009 and 2010.

"With all the threats our troops face and the sacrifices they make, Democrats’ opposition to this defense bill is in fact indefensible," Boehner said in a statement.

Reps. Gwen Graham (Fla.), Brad Ashford (Neb.), Scott Peters (Calif.) and Pete Aguilar (Calif.) serve on the House Armed Services Committee and are among the most vulnerable Democrats heading into 2016.

"The government’s first and foremost duty is to keep our nation safe. I’m proud to support the National Defense Authorization Act, which will ensure our military remains the strongest on earth," Graham said in a statement.

All but one of the 27 Democrats serving on the Armed Services panel voted for the defense bill during the committee markup last month. Yet only 16 voted for it on the floor, showing the political wind had shifted.

Rep. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithHouse and Senate head for showdown on must-pass defense bill Overnight Defense: House approves 3 billion defense bill | Liberal sweeteners draw progressive votes | Bill includes measure blocking Trump from military action on Iran House approves defense bill after adding liberal sweeteners MORE (Wash.), the top Armed Services Democrat, voted against the defense authorization on the floor, citing the $38 billion for the war fund circumventing spending caps under sequestration.

Other vulnerable Democrats like Reps. Ami BeraAmerish (Ami) Babulal BeraOvernight Defense: Shanahan exit shocks Washington | Pentagon left rudderless | Lawmakers want answers on Mideast troop deployment | Senate could vote on Saudi arms deal this week | Pompeo says Trump doesn't want war with Iran Cruz pitches Ocasio-Cortez on bill to make birth control available over the counter To protect our health, we must act on climate MORE (Calif.), Ann KirkpatrickAnn KirkpatrickDemocrats face voters clamoring for impeachment Arizona Dems ask DHS to appoint 'crisis coordinator' at border Democrats introduce bill to let 'Dreamers' work for Congress MORE (Ariz.), Sean Patrick Maloney (N.Y.), Ann McLane Kuster (N.H.) and Collin Peterson (Minn.) are also top GOP targets. 

Friday's largely party-line vote marked a departure from previous years. By contrast, last year a majority of Democrats voted in favor: 109-85.

The defense authorization bill is one of the few annual bills that has continued to clear both chambers of Congress on time, now in its 53rd consecutive year.

Below is a list of the 41 Democrats who voted for the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016:

1. Pete Aguilar (Calif.)

2. Brad Ashford (Neb.)

3. Ami Bera (Calif.)

4. Julia BrownleyJulia Andrews BrownleyKatherine Clark quietly eyes leadership ascent California Democrats unveil redistricting reform bill after Supreme Court partisan gerrymandering ruling Biden holds lead in 2020 endorsements MORE (Calif.)

5. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosHouse Democrats' campaign arm raises over million in second quarter Lawmakers join Nats Park fundraiser for DC kids charity Democratic leaders seek balance amid liberal push to go big on immigration MORE (Ill.)

6. Matt Cartwright (Pa.)

7. Lacy Clay (Mo.)

8. Jim Cooper (Tenn.)

9. Jim Costa (Calif.)

10. Joe Courtney (Conn.)

11. Henry Cuellar (Texas)

12. Susan Davis (Calif.)

13. John Delaney (Md.)

14. Tammy Duckworth (Ill.)

15. Elizabeth Esty (Conn.)

16. Bill FosterGeorge (Bill) William FosterNew bill would restrict Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from lobbying Pelosi joins other Dem leaders in support of Chicago Symphony Orchestra strikers This week: Shutdown showdown looms over new Congress MORE (Ill.)

17. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardSanders praises Gen Z for being 'profoundly anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic' Next Generation foreign policy: Time for the Democrats to embrace restraint 3 reasons billionaire activist Tom Steyer is running for president MORE (Hawaii)

18. Gwen Graham (Fla.)

19. Denny HeckDennis (Denny) Lynn HeckExclusive: Guccifer 2.0 hacked memos expand on Pennsylvania House races Heck enjoys second political wind Incoming lawmaker feeling a bit overwhelmed MORE (Wash.)

20. Derek KilmerDerek Christian KilmerBerkeley professor warns deepfake technology being 'weaponized' against women Centrist Democrats warn Trump against forcing vote on new NAFTA Hillicon Valley: Harris spikes in Google searches after debate clash with Biden | Second US city blocks facial recognition | Apple said to be moving Mac Pro production from US to China | Bipartisan Senate bill takes aim at 'deepfake' videos MORE (Wash.)

21. Ann Kirkpatrick (Ariz.)

22. Jim Langevin (R.I.)

23. Rick LarsenRichard (Rick) Ray LarsenActing FAA chief defends agency's Boeing 737 Max safety certification Pelosi, Dems struggle to find unity in Mueller response Biden holds lead in 2020 endorsements MORE (Wash.)

24. John Larson (Conn.)

25. Daniel Lipinski (Ill.)

26. David Loebsack (Iowa)

27. Michelle Lujan Grisham (N.M.)

28. Sean Patrick Maloney (N.Y.)

29. Ann McLane Kuster (N.H.)

30. Patrick Murphy (Fla.)

31. Donald Norcross (N.J.)

32. Beto O'Rourke (Texas)

33. Scott Peters (Calif.)

34. Collin Peterson (Minn.)

35. Kathleen Rice (N.Y.)

36. Raul Ruiz (Calif.)

37. Dutch Ruppersberger (Md.)

38. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.)

39. Mark Takai (Hawaii)

40. Marc Veasey (Texas)

41. Tim Walz (Minn.)

This story was updated at 2:42 p.m.