Spending bill: Immigrants, guns, churches and suicide
Republican-led group tucks riders into $20B spending bill
WASHINGTON POST» Out of the spotlight, a House panel has taken steps to help victims of gun violence, allow robust politicking from the pulpit, and prevent doctors in the District of Columbia from helping terminally ill people commit suicide.
The Republican-led House Appropriations Committee passed a $20 billion spending bill Thursday to fund the Treasury Department, the Judiciary and other federal agencies.
Quietly tucked inside were numerous provisions that have little to do with funding the federal government. These are called riders. Some are controversial while others are bipartisan. Many will be discarded when Republicans and Democrats negotiate a final spending package this fall.
The bill now goes to the full House. A look at some of the provisions: The bill would allow young immigrants enrolled in former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrival program to apply for jobs with the federal government. Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., said young people brought to the country as children “identify as Americans.” For many, he said, the U.S. is the only country they have ever called home.
“Denying Dreamers the opportunity to serve their community and country through public service stands in stark contrast to our nation’s core values,” Aguilar said, using a nickname for people enrolled in the DACA program, which gives young people illegally brought into the U.S. as children a work permit and protection from deportation.
Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, said Americans will be outraged to learn that people in the U.S. illegally would be able to compete for federal jobs. “So much for Republican promises of making decisions that put American workers first,” he said.
• Gun violence: The bill encourages states to use money from the Crime Victims Fund to establish or expand hospital-based programs that help victims of gun violence.
Under such programs, gunshot victims receive counseling at hospitals to help them access community services and avoid getting shot again. One provision prevents the IRS from enforcing a 63year-old law that prevents churches and other nonprofits from backing political candidates. Under the law, nonprofits could lose tax-exempt status if they get directly involved in political campaigns, either by donating or publicly endorsing candidates. The law doesn’t stop religious groups from weighing in on policy or organizing in ways that may benefit one side in a campaign.
The provision forbids the IRS from spending money to enforce the law, unless the IRS commissioner signs off on it and notifies Congress.
• Assisted suicide: The bill would prohibit funding for doctor-assisted suicide in the District of Columbia. It also repeals the DC Death with Dignity Act.
Mayor Muriel Bowser signed a law in December that makes it legal for doctors to prescribe fatal medication to terminally ill residents.
Congress granted District residents an elected mayor and legislature in 1973, though Congress retained authority over the city, including the ability to block local laws. On Thursday, the appropriations committee adopted an amendment that tries to stop the law by blocking money to implement it. The bill takes aim at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was created under the DoddFrank Act in the wake of the economic crisis. The agency gets funding from the Federal Reserve, a move designed to promote independence. House Republicans want Congress to control the agency’s purse strings.
The bill would strip the agency of its authority to go after lenders and debt collectors it determines have engaged in unfair, deceptive or abusive practices. The agency has used that authority to return billions of dollars to consumers.