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LGBTQ-related earmarks stripped out by GOP during House markup

GOP removes three Democratic-sponsored projects from Department of Housing and Urban Development measure

Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan and other Democrats objected to the GOP move during Tuesday’s House Appropriations markup.
Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan and other Democrats objected to the GOP move during Tuesday’s House Appropriations markup. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Republicans struck three Democratic projects that would provide services to the LGBTQ community during Tuesday’s fiscal 2024 Transportation-HUD Appropriations markup, enraging Democrats on the committee.

The three earmarks total $3.62 million, with two in Massachusetts and one in Pennsylvania. The projects were eliminated as part of a Republican en bloc amendment that advanced a range of Republican cultural priorities, including a provision that would ban flying gay pride flags over government buildings. The vote was along party lines, 32-26.

Subcommittee ranking member Mike Quigley, D-Ill., then introduced an amendment to add the three projects back into the bill. It was rejected, 27-30.

Earlier in the meeting, Rep. Mark Pocan said the committee’s move to strip the earmarks was “bigoted” and described his own experience getting attacked leaving a gay bar that left him unconscious.

“This is what you guys do, by introducing amendments like this,” Pocan, D-Wis., said. “Taking away from people’s earmarks is absolutely below the dignity of Congress, and certainly the Appropriations Committee.”

‘Cruel and unjust decision’

The earmarks that are set to be stripped include two in Pennsylvania: $1.8 million that Rep. Brendan F. Boyle requested for an expansion project at the William Way Community Center in Philadelphia and $970,000 that Rep. Chrissy Houlahan requested for a transitional housing program at the LGBT Center of Greater Reading.

“This cruel and unjust decision is not rooted in any legitimacy, but instead in bigotry and hatred,” Houlahan said on Twitter.

The third project is $850,000 that Rep. Ayanna S. Pressley, D-Mass., requested for LGBTQ Senior Housing Inc. to convert a former Boston Public School building into 74 units of affordable housing for seniors.

“It is unconscionable that Republican committee members would hold senior citizen-specific housing hostage and continue their dangerous national trend of targeting the LGBTQ+ community,” Pressley said in a statement.

Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., criticized the Greater Reading center for offering services to children as young as 7, and argued the Philadelphia center promotes protests held by the Young Communist League of Philadelphia. And he said the Massachusetts project would discriminate against those who are not LGBTQ or allies.

Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., said taxpayers should not be paying for the resources for transgender individuals that the LGBT Center of Greater Reading offers.

“The question is, should taxpayers pay for this?” he said. “The answer is no.”

The panel’s ranking member, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said when her party was in power, they never rejected Republican earmarks for ideological reasons.

Each party traditionally picks which of their earmarks they want to fund within the budget set by committee leadership. DeLauro said the projects met the requirements that Appropriations Chairwoman Kay Granger, R-Texas, rolled out earlier this year.

“In all the two years that I dealt and this committee dealt with community projects, never once, never once did we challenge any Republican project,” DeLauro said. “We said, you do what you want to do and we do what we want. And that has been destroyed today.”

Boyle said in a statement Tuesday that the William Way Community Center provides “vital social services, including employment counseling, meals for seniors, and many other resources.”

“The William Way Center clearly qualifies for Community Project Funding based on the merits,” he said. “The only reason why it is now being targeted to lose these dollars is because of disgusting and ugly bigotry.”

The committee went into recess three prior times during the debate as Harris asked for the words of DeLauro and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. to be struck.

DeLauro said the move was to “placate the whims of some, who, I might add, in looking historically, do not ever vote for appropriations bills. You are negotiating with terrorists.” She took down her own words when the committee returned.

The committee also went into recess around 2:30 p.m. after Harris challenged a statement that Wasserman Schultz made regarding Republicans’ view of the LGBTQ community.

“It’s clearly, and directly a bigoted decision, because the Republican Party doesn’t like gay people,” she said.

Granger ruled that Wasserman Schultz’s words were not out of order after the recess ended at 3 p.m.

The committee recessed again around 3:45 p.m. as it awaited advice from the parliamentarian after Harris asked that statements Pocan made be struck from the record.

“There’s a saying, how do you show you’re a bigot without saying you’re a bigot,” Pocan said during debate. “I’m just saying, there’s a saying.”

Pocan also said Harris was too tired from reading the websites of the organizations he opposes to listen to what Pocan was saying, another comment Harris objected to.

After the committee reconvened, Pocan asked for unanimous consent to withdraw his words. Rep. Michael Cloud, R-Texas, objected to the request, and Granger ruled that Pocan’s comment about Harris being too tired to listen were out of order.

‘Woke’ projects

House Republicans earlier this year changed the eligibility rules for earmarks, which in part grew out of an effort to eliminate “woke” projects from getting funding in the annual spending bills. Rule changes included requiring members seeking projects to certify that the earmarks have a “federal nexus” and are for purposes authorized in prior law. Boyle’s certification letter is here; Pressley’s is here and Houlahan’s is here.

During the panel’s first recess, Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., said it would be “inappropriate” to fund the projects his party wants to cut.

“That’s a woke priority, and we’re not going to spend the government’s [money]” to fund the projects, he said.

Valerie Yurk and Caitlin Reilly contributed to this report.

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