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Financial Services spending bill a big test for slim GOP margin

Blue-state Republicans in tough races helped sink last year's version of appropriations bill for Treasury, financial regulators, the District of Columbia and more

New York Reps. Nick LaLota, left, and Anthony D’Esposito leave a House Republican Conference meeting at the Capitol Hill Club on April 30.
New York Reps. Nick LaLota, left, and Anthony D’Esposito leave a House Republican Conference meeting at the Capitol Hill Club on April 30. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The House passed its first four fiscal 2025 spending bills with little fanfare, but a policy rider attached to the Financial Services appropriations measure that has caused trouble in the past could pose a bigger challenge for GOP leaders when it reaches the floor, likely in late July after the Republican National Convention.

The rider attached to the Financial Services bill, which would block the District of Columbia from enforcing a 2014 D.C. law banning employers from discriminating against workers based on reproductive health decisions, is identical to a provision included in the House’s fiscal 2024 version of the legislation. 

Leadership pulled the fiscal 2024 bill from the House floor at the last minute in November amid foundering support among Republicans from competitive districts, who opposed the rider, and among conservatives, who took issue with a provision allowing the General Services Administration to implement its plan to build a new FBI headquarters in Greenbelt, Md.

The fiscal 2025 bill would block building a new headquarters for the FBI in Maryland, which could shore up support on the right. But there are still a number of issues conservatives want to see movement on, including riders that would hamper the work of independent regulatory agencies that receive funding in the bill.

Republicans have offered dozens of amendments, including some that would cut the salaries of top officials to $1, such as those of Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Rohit Chopra and Small Business Administrator Isabel Guzman.

[House GOP pulls Financial Services bill from the floor]

Other amendments would block funding from being used to finalize or enforce rules, including the CFPB’s proposal to remove medical bills from consumer credit reports and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s rule requiring the disclosure of beneficial owners of shell companies. 

The House Rules Committee during the week of July 22 will consider which amendments to allow for floor debate, expected later that week. If no Democrats join Republicans to support bills on the floor, GOP leaders will be able to afford only three defections on their side and still pass legislation.

‘The same fate’

Democrats at the bill’s full-committee markup last month said that blocking enforcement of the D.C. law would allow employers to discriminate against workers based on their decisions to use in vitro fertilization or birth control, or to seek an abortion. 

The rider also faces opposition from Republicans. GOP lawmakers who opposed the reproductive health policy rider last time around said they hadn’t yet taken a look at the fiscal 2025 bill, but their feelings on the provision were unchanged. 

“If it has the same issue, it will probably suffer the same fate,” said Rep. Nick LaLota, R-N.Y., who represents a district President Joe Biden won narrowly in 2020. “Our leadership knows where we stand. They know the pressure points on why some of these bills failed to earn our votes a year ago, and those discussions are continuous.”

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., who represents a district Biden won by a larger margin, also opposed the policy rider last year. He hasn’t yet done a thorough examination of the full $23.6 billion spending bill, which funds the Treasury Department, IRS, federal judiciary and other smaller agencies as well as the financial regulators and the D.C. government.

“That’ll be a problem if it’s in there,” Fitzpatrick said of the reproductive health provision. “We’re not shy about letting our thoughts be known about this stuff. They have a choice to make — they either fix these bills or they lose support for it. But I have not read the final language.”

New York Republican Reps. Marc Molinaro, Anthony D’Esposito and Mike Lawler said their reservations about the policy rider stand. All three represent districts that Biden carried, with the president winning by double-digit margins in Lawler’s and D’Esposito’s.

“If it’s exactly the same as it was last year, then my feelings would be exactly the same,” D’Esposito said.

Molinaro said he hoped the issue could be resolved before the legislation comes to the floor, noting that blue-state Republicans had worked with leadership to ensure other riders that caused trouble last year were excluded from fiscal 2025 legislation, specifically a provision limiting access to the abortion drug mifepristone included in last year’s House Agriculture spending bill. That measure couldn’t pass the House either.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., submitted an amendment that would allow D.C. to use local funds to enforce the reproductive health discrimination law. It will be up to the Rules Committee whether it is considered on the floor.

‘Just a starting point’

With tight margins and little chance of Democratic support, leadership can only afford to lose a handful of votes on partisan bills. Republicans who opposed the rider last time around did not commit to opposing or supporting the fiscal 2025 bill on the floor, saying they hadn’t yet reviewed the legislation. Some may decide other provisions in the bill outweigh the rider. 

Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, R-N.Y., said she opposed the policy rider but whether she would support the bill on the floor would depend on a host of factors. 

“I don’t support discriminating against women based on their choices,” she said. “There’s always going to be stuff in every bill that you don’t necessarily like. But then there’s a lot of great things that are really important to my district in the country.” 

The rider is unlikely to survive negotiations with the Democrat-controlled Senate and make it into law, Malliotakis added. It was excluded from the final fiscal 2024 spending omnibus. 

“I think it could be an issue for many members, but I think that we need to also be mindful that this is just a starting point,” she said. “We can still have opportunities to work on that as we try to reconcile the differences with the Senate.” 

House Appropriations Chairman Tom Cole, R-Okla., said he was focused on getting bills through committee when asked whether he was concerned about the spending bill’s chances on the floor.

“These are going to be very narrow,” he said of margins on the spending bills. “I don’t anticipate any problems in committee, and after that it’s kind of out of my control.”

The committee approved the bill along party lines last month after rejecting two amendments offered by Democrats that would have removed the D.C.-related rider from the bill.

Republicans on the Appropriations Committee defended the inclusion of the provision in the spending bill, saying the 2014 law could force religious and anti-abortion groups to employ workers making decisions at odds with an organization’s values.

“D.C. law makes religious and pro-life organizations subject to lawsuits based on staffing decisions consistent with their pro-life beliefs,” Rep. Michael Guest, R-Miss., said at the markup. “This includes organizations whose sole mission is to decrease the access to abortion and who were in D.C. for the purpose of advocating on behalf of pro-life issues.”