WASHINGTON — As the United States continued to barrel toward a government shutdown, the House cast a flurry of late-night votes on a series of appropriations bills, including some that contain controversial provisions that involve hot-button social issues.
The House passed three appropriations bills on Thursday night, sending them to the Senate, where they are expected to face stiff opposition from Democrats. None of the bills passed by the House would have an immediate impact on a government shutdown that will start Sunday if the two chambers do not agree to a short-term spending deal.
During a series of votes late Thursday, Rep. Greg Pence, R-Indiana, voted in favor of four pieces of legislation that would provide funding for the Departments of State, Defense, Homeland Security, Agriculture and the FDA.
Some of those bills he supported also included provisions that would limit access to mifepristone, a drug used in the most common method of abortion; slashing the U.S. Secretary of Defense’s salary to $1; spending $2.1 billion to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border; and preventing the Pentagon from implementing the Biden administration’s climate-change initiatives.
Pence also opposed legislation that would provide additional aid to Ukraine, which is attempting to fend off a Russian invasion that has killed tens of thousands and reduced cities to ruins.
On Thursday night, Pence voted for H.R. 4365, which would provide $826 billion for the Department of Defense and intelligence community for fiscal year 2024, which would be a 3.5% increase year over year, according to the House appropriations committee.
The measure also includes provisions that would place limits on medical care for transgender troops, diversity programs, efforts to combat climate change and would reduce the salaries of the U.S. Secretary of Defense and other Pentagon leaders to $1.
The measure narrowly cleared the house in a 218-210 vote after GOP leaders decided to remove Ukraine aid from legislation the after two failed procedural votes. The measure is not expected to pass the Democratic-led Senate, and President Joe Biden has already threatened to veto it.
Pence said in a statement on Friday that the legislation included his “priorities” instead of the Biden administration’s “radical, woke social agenda.”
The third-term congressman from Columbus said the measure cuts “wasteful spending” and “innovates and modernizes” the armed forces, “enhances” the Department of Defense’s role in stopping fentanyl from entering the country and would “counter’s Communist China’s aggression by making historic investment in security cooperation funding for Taiwan.”
“This Defense Appropriations bill will refocus the Department of Defense on the actual mission of the U.S. military, instead of this administration’s radical, woke social agenda,” Pence said in the statement.
Also on Thursday night, Pence voted against H.R. 5692, which would provide $300 million in supplemental aid to Ukraine, according to congressional records. It also would establish a special inspector general who would conduct audits on U.S. aid to the country and coordinate and make recommendations on policies aiming to prevent and detect waste, fraud and abuse.
Despite Pence’s opposition, the GOP-controlled House still passed the resolution in a 311-117 vote on Thursday night. Four House Republicans representing Indiana voted in favor of the measure, including Reps. Jim Baird, Larry Buchson, Victoria Spartz and Rudy Yakym.
Pence also voted for legislation H.R. 4367, which would provide $91.51 billion in funding to the Department of Homeland Security, including $2.1 billion to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. That measure passed the House in a 220-208.
Pence claimed in another statement on Friday that the legislation would, among other things, provide the “highest funding level ever for Border Patrol Agents,” force the Homeland Security secretary to “build physical barriers at the Southwest Border” and includes an amendment that the congressman said he proposed that would benefit Rolls Royce in Indianapolis.
“The Biden administration’s radical open-border policies have caused illegal crossings to be at an all-time high, deadly fentanyl to pour into our nation, an increase in human trafficking and drug trafficking and over 150 people on the terrorist watch list to be caught trying to exploit our open border. This is unacceptable and a threat to our national security,” Pence said in a separate statement on Friday.
Pence voted in favor of H.R. 4665, which would authorize $51.5 billion in spending, including a $500 million foreign military financing program for Taiwan, would eliminate funding for United Nations’ regular budget and prohibit funding to the World Health Organization and the Gender Equity and Equality Action Fund, which seeks to increase economic security for women and girls around the world, according to summary by House appropriations committee.
The measure cleared the House in a 216-212 vote.
Pence said in a statement on Friday that he voted for the measure because, among other things, it would hold the “UN accountable,” provide support for Israel and other allies, counter China, prohibit funding for the WHO and “maintain all pro-life protections.”
Pence also voted in favor of an amendment that ultimately failed that would “reduce foreign assistance to certain countries based on the number of unaccompanied alien children who entered the U.S. from those countries.”
“At a time when the national security threat from China is growing, it is critical to prioritize and strengthen our nation’s national security, as well as stand by our allies and key partners,” Pence said in a statement. “I am proud to have voted in favor of H.R. 4665, which does this, while at the same time cuts spending for low-priority programs and reigns in wasteful bureaucracy.”
Pence also voted for H.R. 4368, which would, among other things, provide funding the Department of Agriculture, rural development and FDA. It also would reverse existing FDA rules that permit the distribution of mifepristone through mail and retail pharmacies.
Democrats and advocates have criticized spending cuts in the legislation that they say would impact recipients of programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants and Children
The American Heart Association said in a statement this week that the legislation would “hinder efforts to promote nutrition and food security and prevent tobacco use,” including the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.
Ultimately, that measure failed to clear the House in a 191-237 vote due to moderate Republicans who largely opposed the language that would restrict accces to the abortion pill.