White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday Republicans deserve no credit for jettisoning plans to include a provision in major defense spending legislation that would undermine President Obama’s executive order against anti-LGBT workplace discrimination.
“I don’t think you get credit for deciding not to discriminate against somebody,” Earnest said. “I think that is behavior that we would expect of everybody in the country and particularly people who are elected to represent their fellow citizens in the United States Congress.”
Senior armed services committee aides in the Republican-led Congress said Tuesday an amendment Rep. Steve Russell (R-Okla.) proposed to undercut the 2014 order barring federal contractors from engaging in anti-LGBT workplace discrimination wouldn’t be included in the final version of the fiscal year 2017 defense authorization bill.
The House version contained the language, but the Senate version lacked any comparable provision. The White House cited the inclusion of the amendment as one of several factors for why Obama would veto it.
Although aides have signaled the language won’t be in the final bill, Earnest was cautious about claiming victory too early, pointing out the actual text of the conference report isn’t yet public.
“As of just a few minutes ago, we have not seen the final text of the bill yet,” Earnest said. “Typically the bill is hundreds of pages long and it takes some time to review the text of the bill and determine exactly what the consequences are of those measures, so I can’t make a grand pronouncement at this point about our position on the legislation. What we have been told is the so-called Russell amendment is not in that legislation. We’ll obviously take a look to confirm that.”
As Earnest acknowledged, the omission of the amendment may be an empty victory because lawmakers could push a similar provision after Obama leaves office under no veto threat and President-elect Donald Trump could scrap the executive order on his own.
“I’m not going to speculate about what might happen after President Obama leaves office,” Earnest said. “Obviously, the Republican-led Congress and the Republican president will have to determine what kind of policies they want to pursue, but we obviously spent a lot of time over the course of this year talking about the fact that elections have consequences — and it’s possible that this is one way in which elections would have consequences.”
Earnest said it was too early to say whether Obama would sign the final version of the defense authorization bill.
“We haven’t seen the text of it, but we’ll obviously review it,” Earnest said. “That may take a little time, but once we’ve reached a conclusion about whether or not the president will sign it, we’ll let you know.”