May 26, 2016 at 12:33 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
House defeats LGBT-inclusive energy and water spending bill
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The House has defeated an infrastructure bill protecting Obama’s LGBT executive order. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Less than 12 hours after approving an amendment protecting President Obama’s executive order against anti-LGBT workplace discrimination, the U.S. House voted Thursday to defeat the underlying bill.

By a vote of 305-112, the House voted down an LGBT-inclusive $37.4 billion package making appropriations for energy and water infrastructure in the upcoming fiscal year.

Prior to the defeat of the legislation, the House adopted as part of the measure an amendment introduced by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) that would prohibit spending of U.S. funds in contravention of Obama’s 2014 executive order prohibiting anti-LGBT workplace discrimination among federal contractors.

The amendment sought to void language in the fiscal year 2017 defense authorization bill inserted by Rep. Steve Russell (R-Okla.) undercutting the executive order. Now that the water appropriations bill is defeated, the defense bill remains a threat to Obama’s executive order.

But where the blame rests for the defeat of the legislation depends on whom you ask.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) slammed House Republicans for the failure of the LGBT-inclusive measure after many of them voted in favor of adopting the pro-LGBT amendment.

“House Republicans’ thirst to discriminate against the LGBT community is so strong that they are willing to vote down their own appropriations bill in order to prevent progress over bigotry,” Pelosi said. “In turning against a far-reaching funding bill simply because it affirms protections for LGBT Americans, Republicans have once again lain bare the depths of their bigotry.”

Also condemning House Republicans was House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who said the vote “demonstrated their clear opposition to equality and civil rights in America.”

“Their votes to defeat the annual funding bill for energy and water development programs, already laden with poison-pill riders to appease their conservative wing, simply because it contained an amendment banning discrimination against LGBT Americans, were both shameful and outrageous,” Hoyer said. “We must not tolerate discrimination and inequality. And we must not permit Congress to be an agent of either.”

According to Politico, Republicans voted down the appropriations bill after Rep. Rick Allen (R-Ga.) “read a passage from the Bible and questioned whether members would violate their religious principles if they supported the bill” at a GOP conference meeting prior to the vote. The Washington Blade has placed a request to Allen’s office seeking comment.

David Stacy, government affairs director for the Human Rights Campaign, expressed disappointment over the defeat of the measure, but noted 41 of the 43 Republicans who voted for the Maloney amendment also voted for final passage of the bill.

“It’s shocking and disappointing that a majority of House Republicans would vote against funding energy and water programs because the bill includes a provision saying federal contractors should not discriminate against LGBT workers,” Stacy said. “History will not look kindly on those members of Congress. More than 70 percent of the American people, and a majority of Republicans, support basic employment protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Many Democrats joined Republicans in voting against the package, which was considered to have provisions that would appeal to conservatives.

Gregory Angelo, president of Log Cabin Republicans, blamed Democrats for defeat of the measure, saying their votes tanked the pro-LGBT amendment, not those of Republicans.

“We should have known — those duplicitous Democrats are at it again,” Angelo said. “Headlines from the liberal media this afternoon are blaring that the House GOP killed this legislation, but the truth is that when given the choice between supporting the LGBT community and supporting runaway spending, nearly the entire House Democratic Caucus showed their true colors and voted in support of runaway spending by voting down the Energy & Water Appropriations Bill that would have upheld federal LGBT non-discrimination protections.”

At his weekly news conference, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Democrats were “not looking to advance an issue but to sabotage the appropriations process.”

“Democrats were not looking to advance an issue but to sabotage the appropriations process,” Ryan said. “The mere fact that they passed their amendment, then voted against the bill containing their amendment, proves this point. That said, we remain dedicated to working on this bill, and on all of our appropriations bills. In fact, we just moved to go to a conference committee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs’ funding, as well as resources to fight the Zika outbreak. So we are not slowing down here.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

1 Comment
  • Chris, I shouldn’t have had to read in other news sources that the bill also contained language added late Wednesday by Republicans that would prevent the federal government from revoking funds to North Carolina over HB2. That is not a minor point and cast the Dems voting “NO” in a very different light. It also begs the question why HRC would have supported a bill with that condition.

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