House GOP begins pushing far-right spending bills, setting up future battles

The Republican-led House voted Friday to strip President Biden’s homeland security and foreign ministers of their salaries. It approved measures banning military installations from holding drag queen story hours for children. And legislation was passed banning paid leave for Pentagon employees who undergo abortions.

The provisions were included in three bills to fund the Departments of Defense, State and Homeland Security that House Republicans pushed through largely along party lines, even though none of the bills show any hope of ever becoming law.

With the government funding deadline approaching in late September and key elections taking place in November, lawmakers have entered a period of legislative drama, with both chambers introducing spending bills that the other chamber will never pass.

In the House of Representatives, that has led to a second straight year of a flurry of conservative priorities. They include defunding initiatives to combat climate change and promote diversity and slashing the budgets of Biden administration officials — sometimes with little resistance from Democrats who know the proposals will never be implemented.

“None of these bills — none of them — will be signed into law as they are now written,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts. “We all know that this is not serious legislation. This is now about show business, performing for the most far-right wing of the Republican base, and it is a waste of time.”

The scenes played out this week in the House, as lawmakers voted on dozens of amendments that foreshadow the bitter spending battle Congress will engage in this fall. The House-passed bills represent a starting point for bipartisan negotiations, meaning lawmakers will once again have to bridge a large gap between legislation passed by the Republican-led House and the Democratic-controlled Senate.

In the Senate, Democrats and Republicans are fighting over how to divide federal dollars between military and domestic spending. Republicans are seeking a significant increase in funding for the military, while Democrats insist this cannot happen without an equivalent increase in domestic spending.

Privately, most budget holders acknowledge that a short-term emergency bill will most likely be needed to avoid a government shutdown at the end of September. This postpones the debate on federal spending until after the November elections.

Many of the conservative policymakers Republicans are trying to advance in the House of Representatives were left out of the spending bills passed this year after Democrats refused to adopt them. For example, the measure targeting drag queen story hours at military bases and another proposal banning the FBI from building a new headquarters in Maryland were included in spending bills the House passed last cycle, but were ultimately jettisoned by Democrats.

Republicans have maintained that they are using their financial power to rein in federal agencies that have strayed from their core missions.

“There are those who say that cuts of this magnitude jeopardize the United States’ leadership in the world and make us less safe,” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida said of the State Department bill. “I completely disagree. It’s the opposite. It eliminates controversial or ineffective programs that American taxpayers don’t support and, frankly, our allies and partners don’t support.”

House Republicans on Wednesday and Thursday rejected a number of divisive amendments from their far-right colleagues, including a series of measures calling for an end to aid and arms sales to Ukraine and another proposal — identical to one that passed the House last year and was jettisoned during negotiations with the Senate — that would have raised the salary of Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III to $1.

The legislation passed Friday would slightly increase funding for the Pentagon, with a 4.5 percent pay increase for all military personnel, while cutting about $670 million for climate change and diversity initiatives. It would cut funding for the State Department and related agencies by 12 percent and provide a modest boost to funding for the Department of Homeland Security.

“This bill funds the department’s core responsibilities to protect the homeland,” said Rep. Mark Amodei, Republican of Nevada. “What it doesn’t do is fund liberal priorities that further contribute to the chaos on our southern border.”

The Pentagon funding bill passed 217-198. Legislation to fund the State Department passed 212-200. And the bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security passed 212-203.

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