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House Commerce-Justice-Science riders would limit Biden on guns

Cole calls the bill 'an opening position'

Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the House Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee, said the fiscal 2025 spending bill would restrain the "politically motivated and weaponized" Justice Department.
Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the House Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee, said the fiscal 2025 spending bill would restrain the "politically motivated and weaponized" Justice Department. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Republicans are looking to include an array of conservative policy riders in the bill that funds the Justice Department, with provisions on red-meat topics like abortion, firearms policy and diversity efforts. 

Their version of the 2025 Commerce-Justice-Science spending bill, scheduled for House Appropriations Committee markup on Tuesday, would handcuff the Justice Department from suing states over laws that limit abortion, curtail the department’s ability to challenge redistricting plans in court, and block it from bringing lawsuits against local or state governments over laws that limit “transgender medical procedures.” 

Many of the riders face an uphill battle to become law, with Democrats controlling the Senate and the White House. 

The legislation would prohibit funding for the Justice Department’s chief diversity officer, the FBI’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and the National Science Foundation’s Office of Equity and Civil Rights. 

One rider would prohibit funds from being used to enforce a Biden administration rule that toughens regulations on firearms with stabilizing braces. Another rider would block funds to carry out “any regulation” issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives during the Biden administration.

A third provision would ban funds from being used to implement any so-called “red-flag” laws, which generally allow a court to temporarily forbid an individual from having a gun if they are believed to present a risk to themselves or others.

Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., who leads the House Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee, praised the bill during the subcommittee markup last month, saying that the “politically motivated and weaponized” Justice Department would be restrained and “will no longer follow the political whims of the Biden administration.”

“The Federal Bureau of Investigation will be refocused on its core competencies, and numerous ill-advised rulemakings by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that challenge constitutional rights will be [stopped] in their tracks,” Rogers said.

In addition to the policy riders, the legislation would cut the Justice Department’s discretionary funding in fiscal 2025 by about 3 percent, according to the Republican bill summary. The bill would reduce the FBI’s funding by 3.5 percent from fiscal 2024.

Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., the ranking member of the subcommittee, said the bill “significantly reduces support for law enforcement in this country.” He said the legislation adds “several policy riders” that would make it “easier for firearms to end up in the wrong hands.” 

Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, the lead Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said the GOP-backed bill would leave “schools, grocery stores, churches, concerts and communities vulnerable to more devastating mass shootings by making it easier for guns to end up in the wrong hands.” 

House Appropriations Chairman Tom Cole, R-Okla., speaking at the subcommittee markup, acknowledged the final Commerce-Justice-Science bill is likely to look different.

“I always see this as a process, as not a take it or leave it but an opening position, a negotiation,” Cole said. “[At] some point we’ll be dealing with our friends in the United States Senate. We’ll be dealing directly with the administration.” 

The riders also touch on conservative grievances over plans to build a new FBI headquarters in Maryland. One provision would block funding from being used by the Justice Department to “implement or administer” the relocation of the FBI’s headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest in Washington.

Another provision would block funding to pay the salary of any federal employee who does not comply with a congressional subpoena, “including any circumstances in which a Federal officer or employee does not produce documents in unredacted form by a date certain provided in a congressional subpoena.”