GOP rep pleased with delay on transgender recruits, wants 'full repeal'

GOP rep pleased with delay on transgender recruits, wants 'full repeal'
© Greg Nash

A Republican congresswoman who introduced an amendment to reverse the Pentagon’s transgender policy said Monday that she’s pleased with Defense Secretary James Mattis’s decision to delay the enlistment policy.

On Friday night, the Pentagon announced that is was delaying opening up enlistment to transgender recruits for six months.

It's unclear whether Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) will bring her amendment back when the annual defense policy bill comes to the House floor later this month. In a press release, Hartzler's office reiterated that she reserved to the right to do so when introducing it in committee last week.

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“This delay is indicative of a policy that was rushed and never clearly thought out, and I am pleased that Secretary Mattis has decided to delay the accession policy,” Hartzler said in a statement Monday. “It is my hope that he will move forward with full repeal in the coming months.”

Hartzler's office did not respond to a request for comment on her plans for the amendment.

Transgender troops currently in the military have been able to serve openly since last year. But transgender people interested in joining the military have not been able to enlist.

That was supposed to change Saturday, but Mattis delayed the end of the ban following a request from the service chiefs.

In a memo explaining the delay, Mattis insisted that his decision does not “change policies and procedures currently in effect.”

Mattis also promised during his confirmation hearing that he wouldn’t reverse his predecessor’s decisions unless a service chief brings him hard evidence the policy is having a negative effect.

Hartzler, on the other hand, wants to reverse the entire transgender policy.

During last week’s House Armed Services Committee markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), she introduced an amendment that would rescind the policy and direct the Defense secretary to honorably discharge transgender troops.

Hartzler withdrew the amendment, but vowed to bring it back when the bill comes to the House floor if the Pentagon does not act on its own.

Attaching a reversal of the transgender policy to the NDAA would cost Democratic votes. The House can pass the bill with Republicans alone, but the bill would need to be reconciled with the version in the Senate, where Democratic votes are needed to pass legislation.

An amendment seen as anti-LGBT was a major point of contention in last year’s NDAA and was eventually stripped from the bill during House–Senate negotiations.

In arguing against the transgender policy, Hartzler and other Republicans contend that it hinders readiness and costs too much to pay for transgender troops’ medical care.

“Military service is a privilege — not a right — predicated on the singular goal of fighting and winning our nation’s wars,” Hartzler said Monday. “All decisions on personnel and funding should be made with this in mind. High entry and retention standards are required because failure in the job costs lives.”

Supporters of transgender troops, meanwhile, say allowing them to serve improves readiness by opening up the talent pool from which the Pentagon can draw. They also highlight a 2016 RAND Corporation study that found open service would have “a minimal impact on readiness.”