Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, made a last-ditch push for the Senate to block a District of Columbia law Friday, but his statement was almost certainly made in vain.
Following the House vote to block D.C.'s Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act late Thursday night, the presidential candidate is urging the Senate to do the same, though senators have already left town. RHNDA is a D.C. Council measure that seeks to combat workplace discrimination based on reproductive health decisions, but conservatives say it could force employers to violate religious freedom. “The D.C. Home Rule Act only gives Congress a limited time to act, and Congress is running the clock to the eleventh hour," Cruz said in a statement Friday. "I applaud the House for passing a resolution of disapproval of RHNDA. I urge the Senate to immediately do the same."
As with any D.C. law, the D.C. Council transmitted RHNDA to Congress for a 30-day review process during which time Congress can formally block the law by passing a joint resolution of disapproval. That review period ends Saturday.
Cruz, along with Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., introduced a resolution of disapproval blocking RHNDA on March 18, and the presidential candidate has been mum on the resolution since then. The Senate committee with jurisdiction over D.C. has not taken up the resolution.
Cruz and Lankford also sought to strike down another D.C. measure: the Human Rights Amendment Act, which was an attempt to undo a 1989 congressional amendment that allowed religious educational institutions to “deny, restrict, abridge, or condition” funds, school facilities and services from gay groups. Proponents argue the new act protects gay student groups from discrimination, while opponents say it would force religious schools to recognize groups that are not in line with the school’s beliefs. That resolution was also not taken up by committee.
D.C. officials and activists accused Cruz and other presidential hopefuls targeting D.C. of taking advantage of the District to boost their conservative credentials, since D.C. does not have a voting representative in Congress to defend its interests. But the lawmakers said this is not an issue of politics, but of principle, predicated on protecting the Constitution.
While time is set to run out before Congress can formally block the D.C. law, the conflict over RHNDA is likely not over. House conservatives are pushing for lawmakers to incorporate a policy rider in the District's spending bill to block implementation of the act, though it is not clear how exactly a rider could do so.
Related: House Votes to Block D.C. Law House Committee Approves Resolution Blocking D.C. Law Norton Warns GOP: Don’t Tread on D.C. Congress Looks to Act on Blocking D.C. Bills Catholic Leaders Backing Cruz’s D.C. Resolution Cruz, Lankford Move to Block D.C. Bills Heritage Action Urges Congress to Reject D.C. Bills The 114th: CQ Roll Call's Guide to the New Congress Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.