Policy

House Rejects Spending Bill After Gay Rights Measure Added

Democrats object to provisions on North Carolina bathrooms, Iran deal

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan blamed Democrats for the defeat of the Energy-Water bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House rejected a sweeping $37.4 billion spending bill Thursday with conservative Republicans saying they opposed the inclusion of an amendment related to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  

The House voted 112-305 to defeat the bill that would provide fiscal year 2017 funding for the Energy Department, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Interior Department's Bureau of Reclamation and several commissions.  

The rejection of an appropriations bill is a rare occurrence, with House leadership typically choosing to withdraw a measure from consideration before it is voted down.  

"The energy and water bill failing is a tremendous setback for the Congress. It takes dysfunction to a whole new level, and dysfunction prevailed," said Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., a member of the Appropriations Committee. "I thought this might happen sooner or later but not this soon."  

[ Paul Ryan Talks Up Return to Regular Order ] Speaker Paul D. Ryan blamed Democrats, who voted overwhelmingly against the spending bill. “What we learned today is that the Democrats were not looking to advance an issue but to sabotage the appropriations process,” the Wisconsin Republican said, noting that their voting against it proves that point.  

Asked about poison pills that Republicans added later — including amendments targeting the Iran nuclear deal and defending the North Carolina transgender bathroom law  — Ryan said some of those items passed by voice vote.  

He was effectively arguing that if Democrats didn’t want them included they should have asked for a roll call vote and tried to defeat them.  

Dent, who chairs the appropriations subcommittee focused on the military and veterans affairs, said it was up to Republicans to pass these spending bills.  

"Democrats committed an act of politics. Welcome to Congress. That's what happens," Dent said. "At the end of the day, we're the majority party and we can't rely on the Democrats to move the ball down the field every day. We have to do it ourselves."  

[ Moral Victory on Confederate Flag, Painful Defeat on LGBT Protection ] Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers said the House would continue to bring appropriations bills to the floor, and the Energy-Water measure would be back. He cited the importance of nuclear security and other issues in the bill.  

"We'll adapt to the circumstances," Rogers said, adding that the GOP leaders will consider ending a policy that puts no limits on the number or type of amendments that members can submit.  

[ House GOP Mulls Changing Amendment Process for Spending Bills ]  

The rejection came barely 12 hours after the House reversed itself and approved an amendment that would uphold President Barack Obama’s 2014 executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  

The amendment, offered by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., had failed by a single vote, 212-213, last week after a handful of Republicans changed their vote from yes to no at the last minute. Democrats erupted into rage, repeatedly shouting "shame," as the vote was held open after time expired and the number of yes votes slowly dropped.  

The scene on Wednesday night as the House adopted the amendment, 223-195 , was significantly more subdued. As the vote was called shortly after time expired, Democrats applauded their victory but the volume of cheers was much lighter than the jeers the week prior.  

Ultimately, though, Maloney said he voted ‘no’ on the Energy-Water bill, which included his LGBT anti-discrimination amendment. He pointed to a subsequent amendment by Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C.,   which prohibits the Obama administration from blocking North Carolina from receiving federal funds in retaliation to its transgender bathroom law. That measure was adopted 227-192.  

“I wasn’t about to support the Pittenger amendment … having fought all week to get workplace protections," Maloney said. "We won the vote last night. That’s an important victory. It shows there is a majority in the House that supports work place protection.”  

Bridget Bowman, Ryan McCrimmon and Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.