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House GOP pulls Financial Services bill from the floor

FBI headquarters site decision among issues holding up passage

Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-N.Y., took aim at the White House press secretary during debate.
Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-N.Y., took aim at the White House press secretary during debate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Republicans yanked another fiscal 2024 spending bill before a final vote that was scheduled for Thursday morning, leaving them empty-handed for the week and stuck at seven out of 12 annual appropriations bills passed.

The $25 billion Financial Services bill ran into trouble with GOP moderates over language that would block the District of Columbia from implementing its 2014 law preventing employment discrimination based on reproductive health decisions, including taking birth control or having an abortion.

“The simple analogy is they didn’t have the votes. Shocking,” said Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., who backs the bill. “Monday we’ll see if we can have a consensus over the weekend for those people that have a problem with what I think is a very straightforward bill.”

Another issue which contributed to the measure’s demise Thursday, according to a source familiar with the decision, was conservative opposition to allowing the General Services Administration to implement its plan to build a new FBI headquarters in Greenbelt, Md.

On Wednesday night after the news of the GSA decision broke, the House took up an amendment from Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., to block funding for the move. The chamber rejected Gaetz’ amendment on a 145-273 vote. Seventy Republicans voted “no,” while one Democrat — Rep. Gerald E. Connolly of Virginia, who’d pushed hard to house the new FBI building in his home state — voted “present.”

Cuts, riders

The annual payment to the D.C. government was one of the few programs in the bill that didn’t face cuts, other than money for the federal judiciary and for the Treasury Department’s cybersecurity office. Overall, the bill would trim programs in its purview by $2.5 billion, or 9 percent, not counting a plan to reformulate the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as a bipartisan commission subject to annual appropriations.

Democratic attacks on the bill’s funding cuts for programs ranging from Treasury’s anti-terror and financial crimes activities to election security grants to the Securities and Exchange Commission, didn’t help the measure’s odds with GOP centrists.

And after more evidence from Tuesday night’s elections that the abortion issue still powerfully resonates with voters, the anti-abortion language in the bill alone may have been enough to sink it.

As many as eight Republicans from districts that backed President Joe Biden in 2020 were prepared to vote “no” on the measure, according to Rep. Marc Molinaro, R-N.Y., who was among them. GOP leaders couldn’t afford to lose that many with most if not all Democrats expected to vote “no” on the bill, which earned a White House veto threat.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates Molinaro’s race Tilt Republican, a little safer than Toss-up but still vulnerable.

Molinaro was also among a group of centrist Republicans that forced Republican leaders to pull the $93 billion Transportation-HUD spending bill from the floor earlier in the week, due to opposition to Amtrak cuts that would slice the passenger rail service’s operating subsidies by 64 percent.

Both Molinaro and Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., chairman of the Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee, said they were making progress in talks to revive that bill by softening the blow on Amtrak. Cole said fixing a money problem was easier than a “values” issue that Financial Services Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Steve Womack, R-Ark., faced.

But lawmakers ran out of time Thursday and began heading for the exits after a morning vote series that saw a few amendments to the Financial Services bill considered.

Other amendments

One amendment rejected before the bill was yanked from the floor was an attempt by Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-N.Y., to reduce White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre’s salary to $1.

Jean-Pierre has “repeatedly lied to the American people and acted in a condescending manner towards reporters,” Tenney said. She “dispenses bold-faced lies to the American people while they foot the bill.”

Tenney called Jean-Pierre an “election denier” for past comments about former President Donald Trump’s 2016 victory and Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’ 2018 loss.

“To hear about election denial from the other side of the aisle is extraordinary, and extraordinarily inconsistent with the performance of the former president,” shot back Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., the ranking member on Financial Services appropriations.

The House defeated Tenney’s amendment, 165-257.

Other amendments considered during the debate include one offered by Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., to bar the use of funds in the bill to produce government documents with the term “latinx” or “latin-x.”

The chamber adopted Salazar’s amendment on a 220-198 vote, drawing votes from seven Democrats: Yadira Caraveo of Colorado; Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania; Henry Cuellar of Texas; Jared Golden of Maine; Vicente Gonzalez of Texas; Mary Peltola of Alaska; and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez of Washington.

Cartwright, Golden, Peltola and Perez were all elected in districts that backed Trump in 2020. 

Caraveo and Perez are considered Toss-ups next year, while Cartwright falls into the Tilt Democratic category and Golden and Peltola represent Lean Democratic seats.

The chamber adopted another Tenney amendment, 220-202, which would block a proposed administration rule to disclose climate-related risks in the federal acquisition process. Cuellar, Golden, Gonzalez and Perez were the only Democrats to vote for it, while two Republicans — Mike Carey of Ohio and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, voted “no.”

The House narrowly rejected an amendment from Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., 208-212, that would have blocked any funding in the bill for the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention. Peltola and Perez were the lone Democrats in favor. 

Eight Republicans voted against Rosendale’s amendment: Fitzpatrick; Lori Chavez-DeRemer of Oregon; Thomas H. Kean Jr. of New Jersey; Mike Lawler of New York; Nancy Mace of South Carolina; Nicole Malliotakis of New York; Christopher H. Smith of New Jersey; and Michael R. Turner of Ohio.

Chavez-DeRemer and Lawler are considered Toss-ups in 2024; Kean’s seat is rated Tilt Republican.