These 9 House Democrats voted to block ‘race-based theories’ from being taught in military-run schools

These 9 House Democrats voted to block 'race-based theories' from being taught in military-run schools

These 9 House Democrats voted to block ‘race-based theories’ from being taught in military-run schools
By: Posted: August 4, 2023

Rep. Jake Auchincloss of Massachusetts said it was a “tough vote” and that he was “reluctant to lend credence to the GOP’s parade of preposterous claims about the military.”

  • 9 Democrats voted for an amendment to block “race-based theories” from schools run by the military.
  • GOP Rep. Chip Roy gloated that those Democrats were “feeling heat from their own constituents.”
  • Rep. Jake Auchincloss, who represents a solidly-Democratic district, called it a “tough vote.”

Nine House Democrats on Thursday voted for a Republican-led amendment to the annual defense authorization bill that would prohibit “race-based theories” from being taught in military-run schools.

Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, a member of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, proposed the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) as part of a broader goal of pushing back on what he called “social engineering” in the military.

The amendment passed and was added to the NDAA, which cleared the House on Friday morning in a mostly party-line vote. It’s unclear if the provision will make it into law, given that the Democratic-controlled Senate is simultaneously drafting its own version of the typically-bipartisan bill.

The text of the Roy’s amendment lays out several “race-based theories” that should be forbidden from the curriculum in schools run by the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), which runs K-12 schools for the families of service members on military bases around the world. 

Those theories include the notion that any race is inherently superior or inferior to others, that the United States is a “fundamentally racist country,” and that individuals bear “responsibility for the actions committed by other members of the individual’s race.”

It comes as part of broader concerns on the right over the last few years about so-called “Critical Race Theory” and how race is discussed in American education. And it was just one of dozens of amendments to the defense bill that dealt with hot-button culture war issues.

In a brief interview with Insider on Friday, Roy complained that educators are “trying to teach that our country is racist.”

But most Democrats have pushed back, arguing that race does have a key role in education, or that Republican concerns are overblown or manufactured.

But on Thursday evening, the following 9 House Democrats voted for Roy’s amendment:

  • Jake Auchincloss of Massachusetts
  • Henry Cuellar of Texas
  • Jared Golden of Maine
  • Don Davis of North Carolina
  • Seth Moulton of Massachusetts
  • Wiley Nickel of North Carolina
  • Chris Pappas of New Hampshire
  • Marie Gluesenkamp Perez of Washington
  • Kim Schrier of Washington

Insider reached out to all nine offices for comment on the vote, but only received a response from Auchincloss and Nickel.

‘Reluctant to lend credence’

Several of those Democrats represent competitive districts, and many of them have built their political brands on occasionally voting for Republican bills. Two of them, Perez and Golden, recently voted to block President Joe Biden’s student debt relief plan.

“I think at least nine of our Democratic colleagues are recognizing [the issue] and they’re feeling heat from their own constituents,” said Roy.

Nickel, for his part, told Insider that while he believed there were “some parts of that amendment that were concerning,” he thought “Republicans were on the right track.”

But he also criticized the amendments brought by Republicans, some of which dealt with abortion or healthcare for transgender service members, as “poison pills,” which led him — and all but four Democrats — to vote against the House version of the defense bill.

“I’m very optimistic that we’ll get a good bipartisan bill after we get it back from the Senate,” said Nickel.

Nickel later provided a statement adding that while supported “teaching our students an accurate history of our nation and its diverse communities,” he agreed with the text of the amendment as written. “I fully agree that our students deserve an educational environment free from such division,” he said.

Auchincloss and Moulton, meanwhile, represent solidly-Democratic districts in Massachusetts.

Moulton, who ran for president in 2020, once told an interviewer during that campaign that white people need to “look ourselves in the mirror” when it comes to racism in America.

When approached for comment outside the House on Friday, Auchincloss, a military veteran, said he wasn’t “doing any comments” and declined to speak on the matter. But his office later provided a statement to Insider calling it a “tough vote.”

“On one hand, I was reluctant to lend credence to the GOP’s parade of preposterous claims about the military, an institution I served and deeply respect for historically being on the vanguard of diversity and inclusion efforts,” he said. “On the other hand, the amendment was tightly constructed to affirm that the military shouldn’t teach service members’ children that any race is inherently superior to any other or that an individual’s worth is determined by their race.” 

“I think that’s an appropriate affirmation for military schools at a time when both the military and schools are under increasing political pressure from bad actors on the right,” he added.

Correction: August 2, 2023 — An earlier version of this story did not list Rep. Don Davis of North Carolina as one of the 9 Democrats who voted for the amendment. This story has been updated to include his name.

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