WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan, who’s in charge of the GOP-run House, is cracking down on Democrats’ ability to win floor votes on hotly contested issues such as LGBT rights.
With his move Wednesday, Ryan is turning his back on a promise that he would safeguard lawmakers’ rights to take on a range of contentious issues when the House debated annual spending bills.
When House worked on an energy bill in May, Democrats pushed through a symbolic measure supporting Obama administration policies that bar federal contractors from discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Furious tea party Republicans then scuttled the overall bill.
Ryan, R-Wis., is telling GOP colleagues that debate rules for upcoming spending bills will avoid a repeat of last month’s embarrassment.
There is a long tradition of debating most appropriation bills under rules that allow any member of the House to offer amendments. Often, amendments try to use the House’s spending powers to try to advance broader policy goals such as blocking administration regulations.
Last month, Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, who is openly gay, won approval of an amendment supporting an administration regulation against LGBT discrimination by federal contractors. The proposal won the support of 43 Republicans, enough to pass it. But the resulting revolt among conservative Republicans ended up killing the overall measure dealing with energy and water projects.
Ryan’s announcement, made during a private meeting of Republicans, promises to block Maloney from offering the same plan to upcoming spending bills such as a Pentagon measure likely to be debated next week.
It’s unclear how restrictive GOP leaders will be and whether Republican amendments will be ruled out of order as well.
Republican lawmakers were generally supportive of Ryan’s move, said Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., among the few who thinks it’s a bad idea.
“This was mostly a discussion about closing down the appropriations process and giving the speaker more control under the reasoning that Democrats will hurt Republicans and that the rank-and-file members can’t be trusted with legislating,” Massie said.
Last year, Democrats won approval of an amendment to a different spending bill to block the Confederate flag from being displayed in national park cemeteries. That led to a similar uproar and caused GOP leaders to pull the plug on the appropriations bills.
Ryan argues that if Democrats win on amendments such as Maloney’s, then they should support the spending bills. But last month’s measure contained an assortment of provisions strongly opposed by Democrats, and it’s long been understood that it’s the responsibility of the House majority party to ensure that its agenda advances.