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Monday, July 23, 2018

A domestic energy and water spending bill was defeated last Thursday over an amendment that would prevent the U.S. government from hiring contractors that discriminate based on gender identity and sexual orientation. The amendment, which would enforce a 2014 executive order from President Obama, was sponsored by Rep. Sean Maloney and added by the full House on Wednesday night with a vote of 223-195. 43 Republicans sided with Democrats and voted to add the amendment and bar LGBT discrimination by federal contractors.

But when the House voted on the spending measure the next day, it ended up failing with a vote of 305-112, with House Democrats screaming “Shame! Shame!” as some Republicans changed their votes and blocked their own bill. According to the Democrats, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy stepped in and pressured seven GOP members to switch sides.

Minority Leader Nansy Pelosi said the bill’s blockage was a product of “House Republicans’ discrimination against the LGBT community,” adding that “they are willing to vote down their own appropriations bill in order to prevent progress over bigotry.”

Republicans argued, as they usually do when fighting anti discrimination legislation, that the amendment was an attack on religious liberties. “I could not, in good conscience, vote for the appropriations bill with this damaging amendment included,” said Rep. Diane Black of Tennessee. CNN reported that a Georgia Republican opened a morning meeting with a prayer warning colleagues that any Republican who voted for the LGBT provision “was going to hell.”

This isn’t the first time that Republicans hold the U.S. budget hostage. Last year, the appropriations process was delayed over a fight about flying the Confederate flag on federal ground. Last week, GOP leaders blocked another Maloney-sponsored LGBT amendment by keeping the vote open and convincing members to switch their vote. The amendment was meant to protect federal LGBT workers under a spending bill for military construction and veterans program.

The $37 billion spending measure is one of twelve annual appropriations bills that Congress must pass — and that are often used as vehicles for other proposals. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan blamed Democrats of this, accusing them of “looking to sabotage the appropriations process” by attaching anti-discrimination language to it.

Maloney, who is new York’s first openly gay congressman, plans to revive the amendment by adding it to other bills, and said that “the only way discrimination is going to win is if Kevin McCarthy keeps rigging the votes.”
Photo: Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 25, 2016.      REUTERS/Joshua Roberts