Faso votes against amendments to ban gender reassignment in military; identifying radical Islamic “thought leaders”

Rep. John Faso voted Friday against controversial amendments to a defense spending bill that would have barred transgender military members from getting gender reassignment treatment and a measure that would have had the military find ways to study and identify Islamic “thought leaders” in the United States preaching extremism.

In each case, Faso joined a small number of House Republicans and all House Democrats.

Faso supported the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act for increasing defense spending by 10 percent, to $696 billion; for providing $2.5 billion more for missile defense than the administration asked for; and raising pay for service members. The bill passed by 344-81, according to his office.

But along the way, Faso, who represents Sullivan and Ulster counties as part of the 19th Congressional District, had to weigh in on what The Washington Post reported were 210 amendments to the must-pass defense bill.

Faso, R-Kinderhook, joined 26 fellow House Republicans to toss an amendment, sponsored by Republican Arizona Rep. Trent Franks, that would have required the Pentagon to study links between Islamic doctrine and terrorism and find ways to identify preachers promoting extreme ideology. The amendment was defeated by just nine votes, 208-217. No Democrats supported the amendment.

The amendment would have had military and private experts identify “major or significant identifiable Islamic religious doctrines, concepts, or schools of thought used by various extremist groups for specific purposes, such as recruitment, radicalization, financing, or propaganda.” It would have also had the military recommend way to identify “key thought leaders” or proponents of specific Islamic religious “doctrines, concepts, or schools of thought.”

Franks, speaking on the House floor, said he had no desire to single out “any group of innocent people or denigrate their faith in any way.”

“However, the reality remains that there is one spectrum of Islamic ideology whose variants are responsible for the 9/11 attacks, (feeding) the insurgency in Iraq, the countless attacks on civilians in Europe, and the boundless evil of the Islamic State,” Franks said.

But Rep. Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat, spoke out against the amendment.

“At a time when American forces are deployed across the Muslim world and depend on the support of Muslim governments, the Franks amendment will send exactly the wrong message to our friends and adversaries alike,” Gallego said. “By singling out a faith tradition for a strange and unprecedented study by our military, we are sending a dangerous message and signal that America is at war with Islam. America is not ever going to be at war with a single religion.”

Faso, in a statement, called the measure “redundant.”

“The US defense and intelligence communities are committed to keeping our country safe by undertaking threat assessments, including assessments involving radical Islamic terrorism. This amendment, therefore, would have been redundant to those continued efforts,” Faso said.

Faso also joined 23 fellow House Republicans and all 190 House Democrats to shoot down an amendment sponsored by Montana Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler that would have ended a policy began in October that had the military provide gender reassignment surgery or therapy for active-duty service members. A doctor would have had to have said the treatment was medically necessary.

Faso said he voted down the amendment to honor a request by the secretary of defense for a six-month delay to the policy and because it would have forced Democrats to not vote for the defense spending bill. Here’s his full statement:

“An Obama administration directive issued last year instructed the Secretary of Defense to develop guidelines for new transgender troops by July 1. The Defense Department, under Secretary Mattis, has requested a six-month delay for the Army and Marine Corps while they review deployability and readiness concerns. I believe the Congress should honor this request. Moreover, it is vitally important that the NDAA receives the bipartisan support of Congress. This serves as both a gesture of support for our brave military members and a signal to our allies that we remain committed to their collective security. Adoption of this amendment would have forced many Democrats to abandon their support for the NDAA, impacting troop morale and ultimately harming our national interest,” Faso said.

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    James Nani

    Covering Kingston and Ulster County Government.Been at the Record since August 2011. Tips: 845-340-4910 jnani@th-record.com Read Full
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