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Partisan pregame: House Republicans pass one-third of their spending bills

House Republicans on Friday passed three more spending bills rife with budget cuts and divisive policies, grinding through their mission to clear a dozen of their own funding measures this summer.

With little support from Democrats, the House passed measures to fund the Pentagon, along with the departments of State and Homeland Security, after checking off their veterans’ affairs spending bill earlier this month. With that achieved, GOP lawmakers are leaving town for a weeklong recess touting their success in passing one-third of the 12 measures that Congress must clear each year to fund federal agencies.

But they also admit all that legislating is just the prelude to real bipartisan negotiations — which are still a long way off.

“I mean, these aren’t the final products. These are negotiating positions,” House Appropriations Chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said this week.

Cross-party talks on government funding totals are not expected to begin until control of the White House and Congress are determined on Election Day; before that, lawmakers are widely anticipating a stopgap funding patch in September that would buy extra time beyond the Oct. 1 start of the new fiscal year. But House Republican leaders remain committed to laying down their own partisan markers on each of the 12 funding bills for fiscal 2025, an ambitious goal they failed to achieve last year.

This week, that meant more tough votes for swing-district Republicans who were asked to support controversial social policies and budget cuts for many non-defense programs, since House GOP leaders have decided to ignore tens of billions of dollars in spending that both parties agreed to under last year’s debt limit deal.

“Some think that what we adopt is the ceiling. I suggest that what we adopt is where we start, and then negotiate from there,” said Republican Rep. Marc Molinaro, who is running for reelection in a Democrat-leaning district in central New York.

The DHS funding bill passed 212-203. The State Department spending measure passed 212-200. And the Pentagon funding bill passed 217-198. Still, House GOP leaders don’t plan to bring the most controversial and austere of the dozen appropriations bills to the floor until late July.

Each of the measures House Republicans passed Friday contain anti-abortion policies, including language blocking foreign aid to international groups that perform abortions or offer abortion counseling. The defense funding bill would bar soldiers from getting paid leave or travel expenses covered for an abortion. And the DHS measure would prevent immigrants from getting abortions while detained.

Some swing-district House Republicans have warned GOP leaders that they would oppose other funding bills because of anti-abortion language. That includes last year’s FDA spending measure — which featured a provision that would block mail delivery of mifepristone abortion pills and an amendment that Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) also proposed this week to block access to fertility treatments like in vitro fertilization.

Molinaro argues that he and like-minded centrists see the abortion restrictions the House passed this week as an acceptable “continuation” of the longstanding Hyde amendment ban on using federal funding for the procedure.

“This concept that the federal government doesn’t put federal dollars toward abortion — that’s been the policy. I’ve had Democratic and Republican predecessors support that,” Molinaro said. “We’ve made clear that advancing the mifepristone prohibitions or outright prohibitions on access to IVF — these are things that we’re just not willing to support. And of course, more broadly, I don’t support any national ban or effort to ban abortion access nationally.”

Democrats counter that tens of thousands of soldiers are stationed in states where abortion is banned, so denying paid leave or travel is “a de facto national abortion ban for women who serve alongside and in the military,” as Minnesota Rep. Betty McCollum, the top Democrat on the defense spending panel, said on the floor.

“Women will exit the force because of this. Husbands and fathers will not want to serve in states where their families could be negatively impacted,” McCollum added, scolding GOP leaders for not allowing a vote on her amendment to strike that language.

While McCollum’s amendment and many others didn’t make the cut for a floor vote, the House debated more than 300 proposed tweaks to the three funding bills. Many of those amendments divided Republicans on polarizing policy issues.

Several amendments to the State Department funding bill put lawmakers on record against funding for international programs, including the United Nations and the U.S. Agency for International Development. A bloc of 70 Republicans supported an amendment from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) that would bar funding for Ukraine under the State Department spending measure. Each of those amendments was defeated.

“Just look what happened with the amendments — we won most of them,” said California Rep. Barbara Lee, the top Democrat in charge of the State Department funding bill. “The public knows. Let the people decide who’s with them and who’s against them.”

An amendment by Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) forced lawmakers to vote on extinguishing President Joe Biden’s recent executive order that shields some undocumented spouses from deportation, along with children of U.S. citizens. Roy’s amendment failed, with 14 nays from his side of the aisle.

Several swing-district Republicans fighting for reelection in districts with large immigrant populations were among those voices of dissent on Roy’s plan, including Reps. Mike Lawler of New York and Lori Chavez-DeRemer of Oregon, along with California Reps. David Valadeo, Michelle Steel and John Duarte.

The White House promptly issued veto threats for all three of the measures this week, accusing House Republicans of “again wasting time with partisan bills” that would slash border security agencies, foreign aid and civilian military personnel.

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