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GOP adds social policy riders to House Labor-HHS-Education spending bill

New version adds provisions on abortion, gun control

Rep. Greg Murphy, R-N.C., hopes to add an amendment that would bar funding from finalizing the Biden administration’s proposed rule to set minimum staffing levels in nursing homes. 
Rep. Greg Murphy, R-N.C., hopes to add an amendment that would bar funding from finalizing the Biden administration’s proposed rule to set minimum staffing levels in nursing homes.  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Republicans unveiled a revised version of their fiscal 2024 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill that includes a number of new conservative social policy riders related to abortion, gun control and diversity.

The revised bill, posted on the House Rules Committee’s website Monday night, comes ahead of possible floor action the week of Nov. 13. Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., announced plans to discharge the bill from committee in a Dear Colleague letter ahead of his election as speaker, meaning it is expected to head to the floor without a full committee markup.

The Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee marked up the bill on July 14. 

The Senate has not yet announced when it will bring its Labor-HHS-Education bill to the floor. The Senate Appropriations Committee advanced its bill on July 27.

The revised House bill includes a rider that would prevent fiscal 2024 appropriations from going to any hospital or other organization that runs a postgraduate physician training program, such as a residency, that provides training to refer, assist in, counsel or perform abortions if the program mandates abortion training or penalizes a student who opts out of abortion training.

While all medical schools require students to complete an obstetrics and gynecology clerkship, only obstetrics-gynecology residency programs are required to provide access to abortion training, though residents with objections may opt out of this.

Other new health care-related riders include one that would block funds from being used to finalize or implement a proposed Department of Health and Human Services rule that seeks to prevent health care discrimination against LGBTQ individuals. The measure also contains new language that would block HHS from declaring a public health emergency related to gun control that would lessen Second Amendment rights.

Another new provision would allow funding slated for the salaries of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention employees to also pay for the schooling of children of personnel stationed in U.S. territories. 

In the Education Department title, there’s a new prohibition on funding for any educational institutions that allow trans athletes to participate in athletic programs, in line with a House-passed bill from April. 

And in the Labor Department title, new language would prevent implementation of clean energy apprenticeships that consider a job applicant’s race, color, religion or sex in the hiring process. Finally, the revised bill would block the Biden administration from implementing a rule it proposed in September aimed at improving the working conditions of agricultural workers in the U.S. on H-2A temporary visas.

A modified Commerce-Justice-Science bill, which also will forgo a full committee markup, would also make health care-related changes ahead of floor consideration in November.

That revised bill includes a new provision that would prevent the Bureau of Prisons from assigning a transgender prisoner to a facility consistent with their gender identity. It would also prevent using fiscal 2024 funds to implement a vaccine mandate for federal workers or federal contractors at any department or agency.

Amendments stacking up

Lawmakers also began submitting amendments to the Labor-HHS-Education bill ahead of a Nov. 3 deadline.

An amendment from Rep. Greg Murphy, R-N.C., would prohibit funding from finalizing the Biden administration’s proposed rule to set minimum staffing levels in nursing homes. Republicans and some Democrats have said they worry the proposal would force nursing homes to close or accept fewer patients.

The top Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce, House Ways and Means and Senate Finance panels wrote to top Biden administration officials Tuesday urging them to withdraw the proposal, citing the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services’ estimate that the plan could cost nearly $41 billion over a decade, among other things.

Amendments from Murphy and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., would reduce the salaries of several HHS officials to $1. 

Murphy also introduced an amendment to transfer $2 million from the office of the HHS secretary to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for grants to prevent opioid overdoses.

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