WASHINGTON — The House voted late Wednesday night to require top national security agencies to report on and combat white supremacist and neo-Nazi activity in federal law enforcement and the armed forces, in a party-line vote in which House Republicans were unanimously opposed.
The measure, an amendment to the annual defense policy bill expected to pass the House late Thursday, directs the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security and the Defense Department to “publish a report that analyzes and sets out strategies to combat white supremacist and neo-Nazi activity in the uniformed services and federal law enforcement agencies.”
“Such extremism is a threat to us in all segments of society. There is no reason to believe that our military is any different,” said Representative Brad Schneider, Democrat of Illinois and the sponsor of the provision, which passed by a vote of 218 to 208. He said that instances of extremism in the United States armed forces “are rare, but we must do everything we can to identify them and to thwart them before risks become reality.”
Every Republican voted no, and only one — Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona — publicly explained his opposition on the House floor. He argued that the proposal “attempts to create a problem where none exists” and “denigrates our men and women in the service.”
“Every member of the military who showed an interest or actual participation in a white supremacist or white nationalist group has faced discipline,” Mr. Biggs said. “The relevant branch either demoted the individual, discharged them or otherwise disciplined the sympathizer.”
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The vote came as the nation continues to grapple with the fallout from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, which dozens of current and former service members attended and which led to efforts at the Pentagon to rid extremism from the ranks of the armed forces. In December, the Pentagon updated it rules against extremism, including tightening social media guidelines, changing the way it screens recruits and examining how to prepare troops who are retiring from being targeted by extremist organizations.
The House also approved a provision, led by Representative Kathleen Rice, Democrat of New York, that requires a review of national security agencies’ compliance with domestic terrorism reporting requirements already established by existing law. Only four Republicans backed it.
Ms. Rice said that she introduced the legislation after the agencies submitted “incomplete and insufficient information” in their first congressionally mandated report on domestic terrorism, which was submitted nearly a year late.
The votes were the latest indication of Republicans’ reluctance to address the issue of white nationalism and white supremacy, even as data show that such ideologies are helping to drive a growing threat of domestic violent extremism. The party has largely declined to punish lawmakers in its ranks who have cozied up to white nationalists, including Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Paul Gosar of Arizona, both of whom spoke at a white nationalist conference. Mr. Gosar aligned himself closely with the conference’s leader, Nick Fuentes.
It was not clear whether the white supremacy language would survive in negotiations with the Senate on the must-pass bill, which would need at least some Republican backing to draw the 60 votes necessary to move through the evenly divided chamber.
The votes were part of a days-long process to consider hundreds of amendments to the $840 billion defense bill, an annual measure that authorizes pay raises for American troops. The House was expected late Thursday night to pass the bill, which would add $37 billion more than President Biden requested to the Pentagon’s budget.
Lawmakers also approved adding $100 million to provide assistance to Ukrainian military pilots, and $5 million to bolster efforts to mitigate civilian deaths and injuries caused by U.S. military operations.
They also voted to give the mayor of the District of Columbia the same authority over the D.C. National Guard that the governors of states and territories have over their National Guard, an attempt to address the situation that left the D.C. mayor unable to quickly dispatch guardsmen to the Capitol on Jan. 6, as rioters attacked the building.
A perennial effort led by Representative Barbara Lee, Democrat of California, to reduce the Pentagon’s budget — this year by $100 billion — failed in a show of bipartisan opposition, 350 to 78.