WASHINGTON —  Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) on Wednesday slammed a proposal by House Republicans to ban transgender females from sports teams, calling them “congressional bullies.”  

This comes as Republican members on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a markup meeting for a bill to recognize sex “based solely on a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth.” The measure, H.R. 734, the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act, would amend Title IX, the federal civil rights law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in educational programs and activities. 

Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) introduced the legislation for the third time last month after it failed to pass during the last two sessions of Congress when Democrats controlled the House. The bill has 43 Republican cosponsors, including Chair of the Education and the Workforce Committee Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), and Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla) and George Santos (R-N.Y).  

“This isn’t about sports. This is about attacking trans and other LGBTQI+ kids and the politics of the issue, not the substance of letting kids play,” Pocan said. “And that’s heartless and cruel and very wrong.”

Now that the Republicans control the House, the legislation has a better chance of passing the lower chamber. But Pocan said he has talked to several members of Congress, especially his colleagues on the Democratic side, and they are willing to work together to prevent the bill from becoming law. 

Most Democrats argue the bill would contradict Title IX by excluding transgender women; Republicans argue it would protect women and ensure they have equal opportunity –  something they say Title IX was created to do. Foxx said allowing transgender women to play sports places biological women at a competitive disadvantage. 

“As a mother and past educator, I abhor the increasing prevalence of biological men competing in women’s sports enabled by the current interpretation of Title IX,” Foxx said in a press release. “The Biden administration’s radical rewrite now denies equal opportunity to women, a group for whom Title IX was originally drafted.” 

Rep. Mary Miller (R-Ill.) echoed a similar viewpoint during the markup meeting and urged the committee to pass the bill. 

“The whole point of Title IX was to give more opportunities to our daughters,” Miller said. “And ignoring the biological differences between men and women is a catastrophe for our girls and women.” 

Pocan, who is chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus, lambasted Republicans on the committee for spending their first legislative markup targeting a small portion of the population. According to a report by the Human Rights Campaign, only about 12% of transgender girls play sports. 

He said there are more pressing issues facing women in sports and kids across the country, citing sexual assault and harassment, pay inequality and gun-related deaths. 

“Let’s focus on the kids. Let’s make sure we respect all children and allow them to participate in sports,” Pocan said.