House votes to overturn DC’s reproductive health law

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The House voted late Thursday night to overturn the District of Columbia’s law prohibiting workplace discrimination based on reproductive health choices.
Passage of the resolution formally disapproving of Washington’s local law fell mostly along party lines on a vote of 228-192. Thirteen Republicans joined the opposition, and three Democrats voted in favor.
It marked the first time either chamber of Congress has passed legislation to stop a D.C. law since 1991, when the House voted to disapprove of the city council’s action to amend a law that restricts the height of the District’s buildings.
{mosads}The D.C. law, known as the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act, prohibits employers from discriminating against workers, their spouses or dependents for obtaining contraception or family planning services. The law further bans employees from retaliation for having abortions.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), the District’s nonvoting representative in Congress, condemned her colleagues for forcing a debate on a law that doesn’t affect their constituents.
“This resolution is wildly undemocratic. It is a naked violation of the nation’s founding principle of local control of local affairs and is profoundly offensive to D.C. residents. This resolution uniquely targets my district, but every member will get to vote on it except for me, the District’s elected representative,” Norton said while opening floor debate.
Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) sponsored the disapproval resolution in the House, while 2016 GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) introduced a companion measure in the Senate.
The D.C. council included a provision in the law to clarify that religious organizations don’t have to provide health insurance coverage for contraception or abortions. 
But conservatives said the D.C. Council hadn’t done enough to ensure the law abides by the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision that exempts religious employers from covering contraceptives in their insurance plans.
“This law is contrary to the federal statute, and the D.C. Council knows it,” Black said.
Congress has the power to stop laws passed by the D.C. Council under the Home Rule Act, but it must secure support from both chambers and the president’s signature. Neither condition is expected to be met in this case.
President Obama issued a veto threat against the measure, saying it would have the “unacceptable effect of undermining the will of District of Columbia citizens.”
Two influential groups of House conservatives, the Republican Study Committee and the Freedom Caucus, pushed GOP leadership in recent weeks to schedule a floor vote on the legislation.
GOP leaders scheduled the vote on short notice this week because Congress only has 30 days to weigh in on D.C. laws before they go into effect. The statute is slated to go into effect Saturday.
Multiple anti-abortion groups urged lawmakers to halt the D.C. law, including the Family Research Council, the National Organization for Marriage and the National Right to Life Committee.
Meanwhile, organizations on the other side of the debate vociferously opposed the House GOP’s move.
“This bill would make it open season for bosses to dig into their employees’ reproductive health practices and fire women for taking birth control or having an abortion,” Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement.
Democrats warned that D.C. workers could be fired or face retribution for their personal healthcare decisions. They further noted the late hour GOP leaders allotted for floor debate.
“This is a new low in the war on women,” said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.). “The majority doesn’t even have the courage to bring up this bill in the light of day.”
But Republicans maintained the disapproval resolution would ensure religious employers’ First Amendment rights are protected.
“This is not a war on women. It is an outright war on religious liberties,” said Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.).
Hillary Clinton, through a spokeswoman, slammed the House GOP’s resolution in a statement to CNN.
“Hillary Clinton has fought for women and families and their right to access the full range of reproductive health care without interference from politicians or employers,” Clinton campaign Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri said in the statement.
“Hillary will fight to make it easier, not more difficult, for women and families to get ahead and ensure that women are not discriminated against for personal medical decisions.”
Tags Diane Black Hillary Clinton Ted Cruz

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