House passes veterans contraception, LGBTQ business bills previously blocked by GOP
The House passed two bills on Thursday to promote credit fairness for LGBT-owned businesses and ensure that veterans can access contraceptive health care without copays, after both measures failed to advance under an expedited process last week.
House Democratic leaders had scheduled votes on the two bills last week under a fast-track process used for bipartisan legislation that requires a two-thirds supermajority for passage, since they were under the impression that Republicans would support them.
But Republicans largely opposed both bills, resulting in the measures falling short of the necessary supermajority for passage and prompting Democrats to take them up again this week under a process only requiring a simple majority for passage.
In both cases, the top Republicans on the respective committees of jurisdiction supported the bills while the majority of the GOP conference did not.
One of the bills, which would ensure that veterans can access contraceptives free of cost, passed largely along party lines in a 245-181 vote, with only 26 Republicans voting with all Democrats in support.
That measure, authored by Rep. Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), would allow veterans receiving health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs to receive contraception at no cost, bringing them in line with health care services offered through the Defense Department and private insurance plans.
“This bill is a simple one. It only addresses the disparity between veterans who must pay for contraception and civilians and women currently serving in uniform who do not have to pay for contraception,” Brownley said.
But some conservative Republicans argued that paying for contraception effectively amounted to abortion, even though contraceptive drugs do not induce abortions.
Taxpayer dollars cannot be used for abortions, while contraceptive drugs are designed to prevent pregnancy from happening in the first place. Emergency contraception like Plan B must be taken within a few days after unprotected sex to be effective.
“Contraception stops a woman from becoming pregnant. The Plan B pill kills a baby in the womb once a woman is already pregnant,”” said Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).
“Equal Access to Contraception for Veterans Act is not contraception, it’s providing with taxpayer dollars the ability for women to have an abortion,” she added.
Rep. Mike Bost (Ill.), the top Republican on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, stressed that contraceptives do not induce abortions.
“It is contraception. It is not abortion,” Bost said.
Lawmakers also voted 252-176 to pass a bill from Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), the first gay Afro-Latino elected to Congress, that would expand financial institutions’ reporting about the credit applicants who own small businesses to include sexual orientation and gender identity, as a way to document if LGBT applicants are possibly facing discrimination.
“This bill takes necessary action to help ensure that LGBTQ-owned businesses are treated fairly by financial institutions and protected against lending discrimination,” said House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).
Only 33 Republicans backed that bill, among them the lead Republican on the House Financial Services Committee, Rep. Patrick McHenry (N.C.).
“Data is a good thing, especially if it’s provided voluntarily,” McHenry said during floor debate.
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