Two constituencies in Coastal Georgia dominated U.S. Rep. Earl “Buddy” Carter’s legislative agenda last week: the military and mothers.
The actions by the First District’s five-term Republican Congressman regarding the first were no surprise. In a mostly party-line vote, Carter joined 218 lawmakers — 214 Republicans and four Democrats — in voting in favor of the House’s defense policy and spending plan totaling $886 billion.
A news release issued by Carter’s office listed the “wins” that Carter “secured” for a district whose 750,000 residents are some 14% veterans or active-duty service personnel.
They included protecting the Savannah Combat Readiness Center from closure, obtaining federal distinction for the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum in Pooler, and a 5.2% in basic pay.
Still, passage of the National Defense Authorization Act was a milestone of sorts, representing the end of decades of bipartisan support of Congress’s annual defense spending plan. The reason? The bill approved by Carter was loaded with hot-button, culture-war issues.
Carter’s news release played down those issues, referring without elaboration to ending “wokeness in the military” as one of the bill’s aims.
It fails to mention that the congressman voted in favor of an amendment, offered by Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), that would have prohibited the use of federal funds to carry out the recommendations of the federal commission for the renaming of military bases and installations bearing the names of Confederate officers — in effect, keeping them.
The amendment was defeated 253-177, with 41 Republican House members voting no.
The bill approved by Carter calls for rescinding the Pentagon’s program reimbursing service members who must travel to obtain reproductive health care, limiting access to gender-affirming care for transgender troops, and ending various diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives at the Defense Department.
The Biden administration and House Democrats criticized the bill. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said a “small group” of House Republicans had infused the defense bill with amendments centered around “domestic social debate.”
The ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), called the bill “an ode to bigotry and ignorance.”
The Democratic-controlled Senate will take up its own version of the bill this week. Then representatives from both chambers will attempt to iron out a compromise bill before sending it to President Biden’s desk for his signature.
Maternal mortality crisis
While Carter’s vote on the defense bill was no bombshell, his introduction of the “Healthy Moms and Babies Act” stood out, perhaps not altogether flatteringly.
The goal of the bill, which he introduced with Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr., a Democrat from Albany, is to “combat the United States’ maternal mortality crisis, modernize the health care system, and improve health outcomes for women and children,” Carter’s office said in a news release.
The proposed legislation is certain to be welcomed across the region. But what prompted Carter to act only now wasn’t made clear in the news release.
Health care for mothers and infants, especially those of color, has been in crisis for years in Georgia, particularly in Chatham County and the rest of the First District.
And despite Carter’s claim that it has been his “mission since day one in Congress” to improve health outcomes for all patients, especially mothers, he has a long record of either ignoring legislation aimed at addressing the problem or voting against it altogether.
The Tide brings news and observations from The Current’s staff.