Divisive proposals included in House legislation to fund Congress' operations

Some of the proposals on the bill to fund Congress’ operations have the unmistakable whiff of sarcasm. One amendment would require “stop, drop and roll” training for House colleagues who pull fire alarms.

Other proposals hammer at hot button issues, including one proposal to provide gun storage lockers on Capitol Hill for licensed gun owners, alleging growing danger in a “crime ridden” Washington, D.C.

After three weeks of uniquely ugly infighting and the first ever ouster of a House Speaker, the House of Representatives is poised this week to debate and vote on its annual legislation to pay for congressional operations.

And even this bill, which is typically among the least contentious of spending legislation in Congress, could be further roil some of the bad blood. 

The annual Legislative Branch Appropriations bill, which covers expenses for Congressional salaries, staff, travel, Capitol Police and other necessities for the House and Senate, would spend more than $5 billion on the operations of Congress and the rest of the legislative branch.  

Foreshadowing what may be an ugly floor fight, some of the amendments proposed for the legislation include controversial language and provisions.  

Some amendments suggest Congress be prohibited from requiring COVID vaccines or masking.  

Another says the legislation should be changed to prohibit “funds from being used by the House Child Care Center to purchase or maintain in a school library any book that contains pornographic material or espouses radical gender ideology.

One Wisconsin Democrat complained that Republicans proposals for the bill could discriminate against the LGBTQ community on Capitol Hill. A section of the legislation prohibits funding any disciplinary action against employee who “speaks, or acts, in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief, or moral conviction, that marriage is, or should be recognized as, a union of one man and one woman.”  

Rep. Mark Pocan, Democrat of Wisconsin, told CBS News this language allows a “license to discriminate.” Pocan said, “If a food vendor is contracted to provide meals during new member orientation and their employees refuse to serve the same-sex spouses of members of Congress, the House could not terminate the contract.”

Other Democrats have blasted the bill for cutting access to congressional work for the immigrant community and minorities by reducing Congress’s internal diversity program.   

A report issued by House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut, said the funding bill “eliminates dedicated funding for the House Office of Diversity and Inclusion, an office put in place to diversify and expand access to the House of Representatives.”

Another proposal seeks to permit gun storage on Capitol Hill, alleging the risk of a “crime-ridden DC” plagued by “soft on crime” policies. Rep. Greg Steube, Republican of Florida, has championed this idea. Earlier this year, Steube said, “Violent crime has skyrocketed across the country, enabled by disastrous soft-on-crime Democrat policies. Sadly, our nation’s capital is regressing to total lawlessness and violent chaos.”

In a not-so-subtle reference to the recent police investigation into Rep. Jamaal Bowman, Democrat of New York, who acknowledged pulling a fire alarm in the Cannon House Office Building earlier this autumn, Rep. George Santos, Republican of New York, drafted an amendment to the legislation invoking fire alarms. Santos proposed an amendment mandating a “3-hour supervised in-person training on fire safety, the proper use of fire alarms, stop-drop-and roll, visual recognition ideas to identify fire alarms for all members that are caught on video pulling a fire alarm in a non-emergency situation.”

There are some proposals to amend the Legislative Branch Appropriations legislation which unify the two parties. A group of House members from both parties have proposed language to prevent pay raises for Congress next year. But the infighting between the parties persists, even on congressional pay.

Rep. Angie Craig, Democrat of Minnesota, said Republicans have failed to ensure a freeze on pay raises was properly included in the legislation.   

“I’m not taking any chances,” Craig said in a statement to CBS News.

But there are also expenses that both parties are rallying behind, including a budget boost for the U.S. Capitol Police and money for the Library of Congress and Capitol Hill grounds improvements and repairs.  A memo circulated by Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee said the legislation “[e]nsures Congress remains open and working for the American people by: Increasing funding for recruiting, training, and retaining sworn Capitol Police officers, ensuring adequate resources for Members to effectively serve their constituents, including funding for staffing and other office expenditures.”

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