WASHINGTON – Debates on appropriations for the Legislative Branch, which funds that part of the government for the upcoming year, were halted as the House of Representatives went into recess after former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy was ousted on Tuesday night.
With the continuing resolution expiring on Nov. 17, the House still needs to pass eight more appropriations bills before sending them on to the Senate to keep the government open past that date.
So far, the House has approved a total of four appropriations bills, which are the Department of Defense; the Department of Homeland Security; the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs; and the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Acts.
Prior to Tuesday’s vote on McCarthy’s future, Democrats in the House voiced their frustrations about H.R. 4364, the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, most notably citing the proposal to cut funding for any “office, program, or activity for the purposes of diversity, equity, and inclusion training or implementation that promotes or perpetuates divisive concepts related to sex.”
“Who wants less diversity? You want everyone here to look the same, just say so,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.).
With the debate focused on two separate appropriations bills, H.R. 4364 and H.R. 4394, the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, Republican lawmakers who supported the proposed bills spent most of their time criticizing the Biden administration for its energy policies and highlighting ways in which their proposed bill would reverse some of the effects of those policies.
“It’s clear, President Biden’s energy policies benefit our foreign adversaries, not the American worker,” said Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.).
On Monday, prior to the debates on the House floor, the Rules Committee heard testimony from lawmakers on the proposed bills.
Chairman of the Rules Committee, Tom Cole (R-Okla.), expressed his support for the bill, emphasizing that this bill “keeps Congress open and working for the American people, with resources especially focused on effective constituent service.”
He noted that the bill prioritizes funding for the Capitol Police for recruiting, training and retaining officers to protect the Capitol.
Little was said to address points brought up by Democrats relating to the elimination of funding for diversity and inclusion programs. However, Rep. Mark Amdoei (R-Nev.) remarked on the issue during Monday’s hearing.
“I guess it depends on how you view elimination,” he said, noting that the office had about a $6 million budget that was moved into the chief administrative offices with its mission and funding moved there as well. “So if you say that that mission has been eliminated, I would respectfully disagree. It’s under the Office of Talent and Development.”
Another point of contention between both parties is a section of the bill that states that none of the funds provided can be used, in whole or in part, to take discriminatory action against someone who “speaks, or acts, in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief, or moral conviction, that marriage is, or should be recognized as, a union of one man and one woman.”
“This isn’t about religious freedom. This is about giving people freedom to discriminate. And if they want to be bigoted, so be it. But don’t use the United States Government and taxpayer dollars to reinforce and spread your backward views,” said McGovern.
Two amendments that were proposed by Democrats included the restoration of funding for the House Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the removal of anti-LGBTQI+ language in the bill.
On Tuesday afternoon, members of the House voted to adopt H. Res. 756, which paves the way for further consideration of H.R. 4364. Further debate was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, but with the House going into immediate recess following the vote on McCarthy’s speakership, it is unclear when discussions will resume as the House now works to appoint a new Speaker.