May 26, 2016
House Democrats don't care about passing the Energy and Water bill -- only carrying the water for the radical Left. That was more than obvious over the last 24 hours, when the president's party launched an all-out assault on what should have been one of the least controversial appropriations debates of the year. In a desperate attempt to make a political point, Rep. Sean Maloney (D-N.Y.) decided to muddy the Water bill with a controversial LGBT amendment.
The saga started last week on a military construction bill and continued yesterday when he and other liberals managed to slip language onto H.R. 5055 that would have essentially disqualified any faith-based group from doing business with the federal government. It wasn't Maloney's idea -- but President Obama's, who, in 2014, issued an executive order elbowing religious contractors out of government work unless they surrendered their views. Under his rule, any company that wanted to contract with the federal government had to adopt special LGBT rights first -- including policies on genderless bathrooms and showers. Essentially, organizations had a choice: they could swallow their beliefs to get a government job or make themselves ineligible by operating according to their faith.
For two years, Rep. Maloney and his party have been trying to turn that order -- which doesn't have the force of law -- into a U.S. statute that does. And last night, it seemed like they'd succeeded. In a stunning turn of events, the Maloney amendment passed -- thanks to 43 Republicans, who turned their back on the First Amendment and voted with the far-Left. Conservatives were shocked. Almost four dozen members of the GOP had gone on the record, agreeing with President Obama that: 1) religious liberty has no place in the public marketplace; and 2) support for gay rights and transgenderism should be a condition of government work.
No free country -- least of all America -- should punish faith-based contractors like the Salvation Army for exercising their First Amendment freedoms in hiring and firing. Yet that's exactly what the measure would have done. Fortunately, conservatives managed to push back on Maloney at the last minute by reaffirming the religious liberty of these faith-based groups in an amendment from Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.). (No thanks to seven Republicans -- Reps. Mike Coffman (Colo.); Carlos Curbelo (Fla.); Charlie Dent (Pa.); Robert Dold (Ill.); John Katko (N.Y.); Frank LoBiondo (N.J.); and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.) -- who outed themselves as enemies of America's First Freedom.) In a nod to the national firestorm over transgender "rights," conservatives also took a swipe at President Obama's war on states that refuse to adopt his genderless bathroom, shower, and locker room policy. By a 227-192 vote, they barred the administration from withholding federal funds to punish any state that did not comply.
Despite those two bright spots, it didn't take long for the bad news about the Maloney amendment to spread. Within hours, phones on Capitol Hill started ringing off the hook. Angry voters demanded to know why Republicans had helped to pass a measure that was eerily similar to the transgender bathroom policy Obama is trying to force on the nation's schools. Suddenly, moderate Republicans started to panic. So much so that when the final bill came to the floor today, the bill crashed and burned 305-112. Ironically, it was killed by people on both sides: conservatives opposed to the Maloney amendment and Democrats, who despite floating their LGBT agenda onto the bill, had no intention of supporting the legislation in the first place. They only hijacked it to make a political statement. Even Sean Maloney, whose language created this mess, voted against the bill!
Obviously, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) claim that the GOP is responsible for sinking the Water bill is ridiculous, since a higher percentage of Democrats voted against H.R. 5055 than Republicans. Her party either sacrificed their great civil rights victory for the cause of "clean energy" or decided that the addition of even a modest religious freedom provision was too tough to stomach. Either way, when both Pelosi and Maloney voted against final passage, it shows that all the theater surrounding this amendment was much ado about nothing. The LGBT crowd should take note that even the Democratic Party will sell them out in a heartbeat. And what did Republicans who were anxious to cater to them get? Nothing. Shame, shame, shame indeed.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.