House Republicans attach anti-LGBTQ provisions to appropriations bills – Washington Blade: LGBTQ News, Politics, LGBTQ Rights, Gay News

A contingent of some of the most conservative Republican members of the U.S. House have held up federal appropriations bills this week by demanding concessions including increasingly extreme anti-LGBTQ provisions.

“Every single one of the bills, in order to appeal to the fringes of their caucus, they put all kinds of anti LGBTQI riders,” U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan told the Washington Blade by phone just before joining an Appropriations Committee markup on Wednesday.

It is “the extreme elements of the Republican Party,” or “the fringes” who “care about this stuff,” said the congressman, who chairs the Congressional Equality Caucus.

The riders have been proposed for must-pass spending bills as they move through the appropriations process – in areas from homeland security and defense to agriculture and foreign operations.

“They started out with really the attacks this session on the trans community, specifically gender affirming care, trans girls playing sports, but then, literally, we’ve seen it progress through the appropriations process to suddenly Pride flags are [made into] an issue,” Pocan said.

The GOP’s targeting of the LGBTQ community in the appropriations process also comes by way of the First Amendment Defense Act, proposed legislation that seeks to effectively prohibit the government from responding to anti-LGBTQ discrimination based on one’s belief that marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman.

Pocan said that during a markup of a legislative branch appropriations bill, he told his Republican colleagues that if he were to “God forbid, pass, and my husband wanted to get his benefits that are due to any spouse,” there would be no recourse if those benefits were denied because of one’s opposition to same-sex marriage.

The congressman said he asked whether that would be fair, and “I watched people on the dais mouth ‘no’ and shake their head,” including those members who supported the rider that would enable people to deny those benefits in accordance with their position on marriage equality.

“They understand the real effects, but they don’t care because they need to try to get the certain elements or their caucus to vote for this stuff,” Pocan said. “And, bluntly, I don’t think those elements are gonna vote for this anyway, because they don’t understand how government actually works.”

“They’re not actually doing any policy and appropriations,” Pocan said. “They’re acting like accountants; they’re just cutting [funding] down to ’22 levels, which makes much of what they’re doing largely irrelevant compared to what the Senate will do.”

Some members, including those in the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, are dissatisfied with maintaining 2022 spending levels, the congressman noted, “so in the end it may just be abject failure.”

“There’s a very strong possibility that we don’t get these done and we have some kind of a CR,” Pocan said, referring to a temporary spending bill called a continuing resolution that Congress can pass to avoid a government shutdown that would otherwise be triggered by lapses in funding.

Another issue within the Republican conference, Pocan said, are intra-party divisions between, for instance, GOP members who are hawkish on foreign policy and eager to fund U.S. defense initiatives versus “those who just believe that government should be smaller.”

Add the “elements of the caucus that believe in the culture war issues,” the congressman said, “and, you know, it’s kind of like taking the Addams Family and saying, ‘what’s the average person?’”

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), meanwhile, “hasn’t proven to be much of a leader during this time, either,” Pocan said.

Democrats who serve as the ranking members of three subcommittees of the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations also denounced efforts by their GOP colleagues to attach anti-LGBTQ riders to their must-pass spending bills in emailed statements to the Blade. All are vice chairs of the Equality Caucus.

“The legislation coming before us is jammed with extremist attacks that undermine our LGBTQI+ servicemembers, veterans, and their families,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), the top Democrat on the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, which, she noted, “has a longstanding tradition of bipartisanship.”

“Republicans this year,” said the congresswoman, “bent to far-right ideologues, adding provisions to ban gender affirming care, Pride flags, and other initiatives that impact the quality of life of our LGBTQI+ servicemembers.”

Despite the efforts by Republicans who “are dead set on wasting time marking up messaging bills with no chance of becoming law,” Wasserman Schultz promised that “my House Democratic colleagues and I won’t stand idly by as Republicans undermine the service of LGBTQI+ individuals who so bravely defend our nation every day.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (Ill.) told the Blade, “During recent appropriations meetings, I’ve listened as my colleagues across the aisle insert cruel, dangerous anti-LGBTQI+ provisions into our funding bills on strictly partisan lines.”

“Republicans decided to strip Diversity and Inclusion funding, permit federal employees to discriminate against LGBTQI+ people, and ban medically necessary gender affirming care,” said the congressman, who is ranking member of the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Subcommittee.

“This is an outright assault on individuals who are simply asking for basic human rights and to be treated as equals in our country,” Quigley said, adding, “I have and will continue to fight back against these attacks” because “allowing these provisions to become law would tell the LGBTQI+ community that their existence is wrong – we will never let that happen.”

“LGBTQI+ people matter and our laws must reflect that truth,” said the congressman.

“House Republicans are using the FY24 Appropriations process as an opportunity to attack the rights of women, minorities, and members of the LGBTQ+ community,” said U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (Calif.), ranking member of the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs.

“Their Appropriations bills would eliminate funding from diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, attack the LGBTQ+ community through banning Pride flags at Veterans Affairs facilities and military bases, undermine key programs to address the climate crisis, and much more,” said the congresswoman, who was a founding member of the Equality Caucus.

“Their efforts to disenfranchise our courageous servicemembers strictly based on how they identify or who they love is despicable,” she added.

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