Four House Republicans vote against bill on international religious freedom
Four House Republicans voted against a bill on Monday that seeks to reauthorize appropriations for the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.
The legislation, titled the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Reauthorization Act, passed in a 402-4 vote. Twenty-six lawmakers did not vote.
Republican Reps. Louie Gohmert (Texas), Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), Thomas Massie (Ky.) and Chip Roy (Texas) voted against the measure.
The bill, which passed the Senate by unanimous consent in July, continues appropriations for the commission through fiscal year 2024. Funding is currently set to expire on Sept. 30 of this year.
The group is an independent, bipartisan federal commission that keeps track of violations of religious freedom internationally and proposes policy recommendations to the president, secretary of state and Congress. The entity was established through the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act.
A spokesperson for Massie told The Hill that the congressman voted against the bill “because he doesn’t want the government involved in religion; he would prefer the government leave religion alone.”
“In addition, the Commission frequently recommends the imposition of sanctions on foreign countries, and sanctions generally do not hurt the repressive governments they target. Instead, the burdens of sanctions disproportionately fall on innocent people already suffering under those regimes,” the spokesperson added.
In a statement to The Hill on Wednesday, Roy said that while the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom “was established with a noble mission that I broadly believe in,” the group has since “strayed from its original mission and lost its focus.”
“Rather than purely defending international religious freedom, USCIRF can now be found championing ‘beliefs’ encompassing radical gender ideologies that are antithetical to the very freedom of religion USCIRF was created to defend. To ever support reauthorizing it – not to mention funding it – USCIRF must restore focus to its mission and return to advocating for international religious freedom,” he added.
The Hill reached out to Gohmert and Greene for comment on their vote.
The four Republican lawmakers have voted against a number of foreign-focused bills in the past.
In May, the group of four were among the 57 GOP lawmakers who voted against a $39.8 billion aid package to support Ukraine in its conflict against Russia.
The next day, Greene and Massie objected to four bills that reprimanded Russia and Belarus over the war in Ukraine, or offered support for Kyiv. Gohmert and Roy joined Greene and Massie in voting against one of the measures — the Ukraine Comprehensive Debt Payment Relief Act — which sought to suspend multilateral debt payment Ukraine owes.
And in April, the four Republicans voted against a largely symbolic bill that would encourage President Biden to confiscate assets from sanctioned Russian oligarchs and put the funds toward support for Ukraine.
Greene and Massie were also among those who voted against the Ukraine lend-lease bill, which sought to make it easier for the U.S. to send military aid to Ukraine during its conflict with Russia.
— Updated Sept. 21 at 12:53 p.m.