WASHINGTON – Critics saw it as the kind of political maneuver that has driven conservative voters nuts – the kind that propelled the rise of Washington outsiders in this year’s presidential campaign.
The Republican-controlled House approved an amendment to an infrastructure bill Wednesday night that conservatives charged would have put President Obama’s transgender policy into law.
The amendment would have denied any federal funds to contractors who discriminate based on gender identity as well as sexual orientation, and it passed 223-195 with 43 Republicans supporting it. The measure would have codified an executive order President Obama issued in April 2015.
However, when push came to shove on Thursday, the entire bill went down in flames by a vote of 112-305, with many Republicans voting against it precisely because of the amendment.
Leading conservative Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, told WND, “I’m thankful that conservatives voted their consciences and defeated this restrictive measure.”
Critics saw the inclusion of the amendment as turning the $37.4 billion Energy and Water Appropriations Bill into a Trojan Horse attempt to cement into law what conservative commentator Daniel Horowitz called Obama’s “executive war on culture and religious liberty.”
Horowitz blasted the GOP-controlled House for trying to codify “Obama’s transgenderism in the dark of the night,” and accused Republicans of doing “nothing to stop” the president.
House conservatives did not appear happy with GOP colleagues for supporting the amendment.
Before the bill was killed, Jordan who is chair of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, or HFC, had told WND, “This is exactly what is wrong with Washington. A bill that is supposed to fund infrastructure projects becomes a vehicle for attacking religious liberty, and leaders elected to protect taxpayer dollars continue to bust budgets and increase spending like there’s no tomorrow. I can’t support it.”
“Everyone in America knows that we need to get spending under control, and they know that the government needs to protect the religious liberty of all Americans,” he added. “The only ones who don’t seem to understand those basic facts are the politicians in Washington.”
While Jordan criticized elected leaders for the bill, he pointedly did not mention any of them by name.
House conservatives were so frustrated with what they saw as former House Speaker John Boehner’s refusal to effectively oppose the Obama agenda, they effectively ousted him in a coup last summer.
But, relations with Boehner’s successor, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., whom the HFC endorsed for the position, have been notably more cordial, and conservatives hope they will be much more productive. The killing of the infrastructure bill is likely to help keep those relations on track.
One reason the HFC supported Ryan was he promised to do what Boehner so often did not, let the regular legislative process play out by letting all amendments get a full hearing and a vote.
For that reason, some political observers said, House leaders had no choice but to let the amendment, offered by openly gay Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., come to the floor for a vote.
Not so, claimed Horowitz in his scathing denunciation of House leaders.
“GOP leaders are forever blocking key conservative initiatives and legislation in order to violate the GOP platform; certainly they can block an anti-religious liberty transgendered amendment from Democrats to protect the integrity of the GOP-controlled House,” the commentator charged.
“GOP leaders are always twisting arms to get conservative members to vote for bad bills,” Horowitz added. “Somehow we are to believe they were impotent in ensuring ‘moderate’ members (what is moderate about transgenderism?) adhere to the party’s platform?”
The conservative commentator then specifically targeted the speaker, noting, “Ryan has long been a supporter of ENDA (Employment Non Discrimination Act), the legislative vehicle for enshrining transgenderism into law and mandating adherence to its dogma on private businesses. That is why he’s been absent in this fight.”
Horowitz took it a step further: “Moreover, Republicans have failed to allow a single anti-religious bigotry bill to the floor since the illegal gay marriage decision was issued by the Supreme Court, despite the ubiquitous threats against private businesses, states, and private property. Clearly, whipping against this vote was not a priority.”
The commentator concluded, “[T]his entire spending bill was something that should never have come to the floor. It increased spending and retained a number of green energy programs for a department that shouldn’t even exist.”
After the vote killing the bill, Ryan said it should not have contained the amendment in the first place.
“This is federalism; the states should do this,” said the speaker. “The federal government shouldn’t stick its nose in its business.”
In the end, the amendment had the effect of killing what is often considered one of the less-controversial spending bills because of the number of Army Corps of Engineers projects it funds.
But conservatives rallied against the attempt to put Obama’s transgender policy into law.
“Setting policy by executive fiat, rather than through the legislative process, on sensitive matters such as this is never appropriate,” said Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn. “With this amendment, Congress rewarded the president’s end-run around our branch of government and encouraged the use of further overreaching executive orders in the last months of the Obama presidency. I could not, in good conscience, vote for the appropriations bill with this damaging amendment included.”