by Connor Semelsberger, MPP
August 7, 2020
Whether in the appropriations process or coronavirus relief discussions, issues of life, family, and religious freedom continued to be debated in Congress in recent days, and Family Research Council wrapped up a busy few weeks fighting for faith, family, and freedom in our nation’s capital. Here are the two big items from the past two weeks:
The House Continues its Spending Spree
The House of Representatives passed the second spending package (H.R. 7617) for fiscal year 2021. This package includes several measures that block some of the president’s pro-life and pro-family policies. Among other things, H.R. 7617 would:
- Allow D.C. funds to be used for abortions;
- Grant the marijuana industry banking access and prevent the federal government from enforcing federal law in states that have legalized recreational marijuana;
- Force private schools participating in the D.C. voucher program (including faith-based schools) to abide by the same federal restrictions as public schools;
- Cut private schools from COVID-19 relief funding;
- Lock in Planned Parenthood as a Title X family planning grantee;
- Eliminate funding for Sexual Risk Avoidance Education, a program that teaches children that avoiding sexual activity before marriage is the surest way to avoid its risks;
- Stop efforts by the Department of Health and Human Services from working with faith-based adoption and foster care agencies that operate in accordance with their faith;
- Stop efforts by the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that science and biology remain the cornerstone of health care, not gender ideology;
- Gut Department of Defense policy regarding the service of individuals with gender dysphoria despite the policy’s basis in promoting military readiness, lethality, and unit cohesion over social experimentation; and
- Allow men who identify as women into battered women’s shelters.
With this package passed, only the spending bills for Homeland Security and the Legislative Branch remain outstanding in the House. However, the Senate has not begun working on their spending bills, and there are only 14 legislative days left before federal funding runs out on September 30. The appropriations process in the House has been nothing but partisan politics by liberals to advance their priorities and does not reflect a good faith effort to pass spending bills that will actually be signed into law.
Congress Negotiates Next Round of Coronavirus Relief
The Senate unveiled their long-awaited proposal for further medical and economic relief for Americans hurting from the coronavirus pandemic. Unlike the Heroes Act (H.R. 6800), which includes a wish list of liberal policy priorities, the Senate proposal (HEALS Act) seeks to spend money responsibly and tailor aid specifically to those most in need.
Among other things, the Heroes Act would:
- Provide bonus pay for essential workers, which could include those working at abortion facilities;
- Provide tax subsidies for health care plans that cover abortion;
- Redefine sex in non-discrimination language to include sexual orientation and gender identity;
- Create legal protections for banks who do business with the marijuana industry.
The HEALS Act, however:
- Provides financial help without subsidizing abortion or health plans that cover abortion;
- Puts most of its funding towards schools, virus testing, and the small business loan program known as the Paycheck Protection Program;
- Includes liability protections for nonprofits and churches so that they can reopen safely without fear of frivolous lawsuits;
- Includes Emergency Education Freedom Grants, which would send money to states in the form of scholarships to be used for private schools and even homeschooling expenses.
Negotiations over the next round of coronavirus relief legislation are still ongoing and major disagreements between the two sides have threatened to stall any compromise solution. However, it is encouraging to see the Senate sticking up for life, family, and religious liberty.
Other Notable Items
- Senator Josh Hawley has stated that he will only support Supreme Court nominees who are on the record against Roe v. Wade.
- The CEOs of Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook testified before the House Judiciary committee. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) directly called out big tech censorship of conservative voices and Amazon’s use of the SPLC hate groups list in the Amazon smile program.
- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the State Department budget, discussing religious freedom among other things.
- Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) introduced a bill to repeal the longstanding Helms Amendment, a bipartisan policy that bans taxpayer funding for abortion abroad.
We hope this is a helpful roundup of developments connected to faith, family, and freedom on Capitol Hill. Please stay tuned for our next update.