House passes veterans funding bill with controversial abortion provision

A fiscal year 2025 spending bill for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) passed 209-197, with all but four Democrats voting against the legislation over provisions they oppose, including one restricting access to an abortion.

No funds approved in the bill (PDF) may be used for a medical benefits package or health benefits program that includes coverage of an abortion, unless a pregnancy results as an act of rape or incest or if a pregnancy is deemed to endanger the woman.

Funds may also not be used for gender-affirming care surgeries or hormone therapies, as well as diversity, equity and inclusion training, COVID-19 mask mandates or a host of climate change executive orders.

The legislation drew criticism from the Biden administration and is likely to be vetoed instantly, should the bill also advance through the Democrat-controlled Senate, multiple media outlets reported.

“This bill fully funds healthcare and benefits for our veterans, reflecting our deep gratitude to our heroes," said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, in a statement. "It also enhances the quality of life of our troops and their families and invests in key deterrence measures in the Indo-Pacific."

Rep. Greg Steube, R-Florida, introduced an amendment to ban the use of funds for the VA department to process medical claims for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). That amendment passed, despite Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, claiming ICE pays for these medical claims and no funding is taken from veterans in the bill.

The legislation addresses artificial intelligence as well. Rep. David Schweikert, R-Arizona, brought forward an amendment to push adoption of AI to speed up claims management. He also supported, along with Wasserman Schultz, using AI to help reduce fraud in the department.

“If you have claims in there fitting certain formats, the fact of the matter is you should be able to go through them at an incredibly rapid rate with an incredibly high level of accuracy, if you adopt the technology,” said Schweikert.

Wednesday’s spending plan includes $379 billion in funding for VA programs. Twenty-five representatives did not vote.