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 BoehnerLongtime House parliamentarian to step down Five things we learned from this year's primaries Bad blood between Pelosi, Meadows complicates coronavirus talks MORE (R-Ohio) accused the 143 Democrats who voted against the legislation of "letting politics come before national security." BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLongtime House parliamentarian to step down Five things we learned from this year's primaries Bad blood between Pelosi, Meadows complicates coronavirus talks 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 SmithOvernight Defense: Appeals court revives House lawsuit against military funding for border wall | Dems push for limits on transferring military gear to police | Lawmakers ask for IG probe into Pentagon's use of COVID-19 funds Democrats push to limit transfer of military-grade gear to police 40 groups call on House panel to investigate Pentagon's use of coronavirus funds 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 BeraThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: iBIO Chairman and CEO Thomas Isett says developing a safe vaccine is paramount; US surpasses 150,000 coronavirus deaths with roughy one death per minute Democrats fear US already lost COVID-19 battle Karen Bass's star rises after leading police reform push MORE (Calif.), Ann KirkpatrickAnn KirkpatrickArizona Rep. Tom O'Halleran wins Democratic primary Arizona Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick wins Democratic primary Cook shifts 20 House districts toward Democrats 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 BrownleyHouse Democrats eyeing much broader Phase 3 stimulus Assistant House Speaker self-quarantines out of 'abundance of caution' Actor Orlando Bloom to self-quarantine MORE (Calif.)

5. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden asks if public can trust vaccine from Trump ahead of Election Day | Oklahoma health officials raised red flags before Trump rally DCCC dropping million on voter education program Clark rolls out endorsements in assistant Speaker race 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 Foster81 Nobel laureates endorse Biden's White House bid Trump payroll tax deferral finds few takers among businesses Former Obama Ebola czar Ron Klain says White House's bad decisions have put US behind many other nations on COVID-19; Fears of virus reemergence intensify MORE (Ill.)

17. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardRepublicans call on DOJ to investigate Netflix over 'Cuties' film Hispanic Caucus campaign arm endorses slate of non-Hispanic candidates Gabbard says she 'was not invited to participate in any way' in Democratic convention 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 KilmerIs Congress reasserting itself? Pelosi asks panels to draft new COVID-19 relief measure Lawmakers fear voter backlash over failure to reach COVID-19 relief deal MORE (Wash.)

21. Ann Kirkpatrick (Ariz.)

22. Jim Langevin (R.I.)

23. Rick LarsenRichard (Rick) Ray LarsenDemocratic lawmaker calls for stronger focus on trade leverage to raise standards The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, Harris launch Trump offensive in first joint appearance The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden, Harris's first day as running mates 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.