GOP lines up culture war-heavy spending bills targeting military abortions, drag shows

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House Republicans are using three key government funding bills to pass conservative priorities on abortion, diversity and drag performances. 

The House is expected to consider appropriations bills this week funding the Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the State Department and foreign operations for fiscal year 2025.

It’s part of an ambitious schedule House GOP leaders have laid out to have their 12 individual appropriations bills passed by August recess.

But in addition to funding the government by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, Republicans are also eyeing the spending race as an opportunity to get at least some conservative social policies over the line before the November election, when they risk losing the House majority. 

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Speaker of the House Mike Johnson is expected to hold votes on three culture war-heavy spending bills this week. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

That includes pushing for former President Trump’s border wall – there is $600 million in the DHS appropriations bill for funding its construction, along with a policy provision to force Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to erect physical barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border as quickly as possible.

Both the DHS and defense bills also block their respective funds from being used for abortion services. 

The defense bill stops use of “paid leave and travel or related expenses of a servicemember or their dependents to obtain an abortion or abortion-related services,” according to the House Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee.

The former prohibits federal dollars from being used to perform abortions for noncitizen detainees of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Likewise, that bill also stops funding from going toward transgender health care-related measures for ICE detainees.

The defense spending bill also bans funding from being used for programs like drag queen story hour, and prevents hiring of drag performers as military recruiters. The subcommittee’s bill summary argues such programs “bring discredit upon the military.”

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Migrants border security

Republicans are also eyeing the spending race as an opportunity to get at least some conservative social policies over the line before the November election, including funding for former President Trump’s border wall. (Fox News)

All three bills expected for consideration this week block federal dollars from going toward diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs. It’s a priority House Republicans also pushed for in the last spending fight, which resulted in the shutdown of the House Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Similarly, the defense and DHS bills place restrictions on those departments enacting critical race theory (CRT) programs.

While defense and DHS spending are set to get modest bumps in fiscal year 2025, Republicans are aiming to slash spending at the State Department.

House Republicans are working toward a topline of roughly $1.6 trillion in discretionary government funding. GOP leaders are guided by last year’s Fiscal Responsibility Act, a deal struck between then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and President Biden to raise the debt ceiling and limit federal spending.

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But unlike last year, when the final numbers were inflated by McCarthy and Biden’s side deals, House Appropriations Chair Tom Cole, R-Okla., and Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., pledged to forge ahead on the topline number alone.

The defense bill and DHS bill are seeing roughly $9 billion and $3 billion increases from 2024, respectively, while the State Department bill is an 11% cut from last year.

President Joe Biden speaks at podium in Philadelphia

President Biden has already threatened to veto the bills. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

All three are being considered by the House Rules Committee on Tuesday, the last stop before a bill faces a chamber-wide vote. Democrats have already come out in opposition to the House GOP’s plans, however.

Biden threatened to veto all three spending bills in a statement of administration policy on Monday.

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“Rather than respecting their agreement and taking the opportunity to engage in a productive, bipartisan appropriations process to build on last year’s bills, House Republicans are again wasting time with partisan bills that would result in deep cuts to law enforcement, education, housing, health care, consumer safety, energy programs that lower utility bills and combat climate change, and essential nutrition services,” the White House said.

“The draft bills also include numerous, partisan policy provisions with devastating consequences, including harming access to reproductive health care, threatening the health and safety of… (LGBTQI+) Americans, endangering marriage equality, hindering critical climate change initiatives, and preventing the Administration from promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion.”