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 BoehnerFrom learning on his feet to policy director Is Congress retrievable? Boehner reveals portrait done by George W. Bush MORE (R-Ohio) accused the 143 Democrats who voted against the legislation of "letting politics come before national security." BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFrom learning on his feet to policy director Is Congress retrievable? Boehner reveals portrait done by George W. Bush 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 SmithImpeachment battle looms over must-pass defense bill Judd Gregg: The big, big and bigger problem 'Marketplace of ideas' turns 100 — it's not what it used to be 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 BeraImproving maternal health with data and care coordination One year out, moderate Dems on track to keep the House Democrat unveils bill capping number of ambassadors who are political appointees MORE (Calif.), Ann KirkpatrickAnn KirkpatrickSwing-seat Democrats oppose impeachment, handing Pelosi leverage McSally gets new primary challenger Two Democrats vow to press forward on Trump impeachment 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 BrownleyA dozen House Democrats call on EU ambassador to resign amid Ukraine scandal Katherine Clark quietly eyes leadership ascent California Democrats unveil redistricting reform bill after Supreme Court partisan gerrymandering ruling MORE (Calif.)

5. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi accuses Trump of 'bribery' in Ukraine dealings DCCC adds senior staffers after summer departures DCCC raises more than M in October 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 FosterScientists join Democrats in panning EPA's 'secret science' rule Omar knocks Republicans for appearing to bring phones into highly-classified SCIF room Mass shootings have hit 158 House districts so far this year MORE (Ill.)

17. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardNew poll catapults Buttigieg to frontrunner position in Iowa Deval Patrick: a short runway, but potential to get airborne Saagar Enjeti: Yang's plan to regulate big tech misses the mark 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 KilmerHouse extends Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress for another year Progressive freshmen jump into leadership PAC fundraising Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to testify on Libra | Extremists find home on Telegram app | Warren blasts Facebook for not removing anti-Biden ad | California outlaws facial recognition in police body cameras | China rips US tech sanctions MORE (Wash.)

21. Ann Kirkpatrick (Ariz.)

22. Jim Langevin (R.I.)

23. Rick LarsenRichard (Rick) Ray LarsenAviation chairmen cite safety, new tech among concerns for the future The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Better Medicare Alliance - Diplomat's 'powerful' testimony and 'lynching' attract headlines The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Better Medicare Alliance - Trump's impeachment plea to Republicans 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.