GOP’s anti-woke fight falls flat in Congress as spending bill bankrolls Biden agenda

Ecogrief, pride flags and budget battles are all winners.

The Republicans won control of the House in the last year, promising to use their purse strings to curb President Biden’s radical agenda.

The first time around didn’t go so well.

The final budget bill for the Interior Department removed an attempt to prohibit the Department from using taxpayer money to provide “ecogrief counseling” for its employees. The Energy Department’s Equity Action Plan was also removed from the final spending bill.

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The bill did not include a ban on the display of the rainbow “pride flag” outside government buildings, nor a provision that would have blocked money from going to the National Museum of the American Latino. Republicans claimed the Smithsonian’s project had taken a left-wing turn in its portrayal of Hispanic heritage.

All of these decisions are part of the $467.5-billion spending bill that Congress announced over the weekend and is up for vote this week.

The bill covers six of twelve annual spending bills for fiscal 2024. It funds Veterans Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the FBI, and food stamps, among other federal programs. Six more bills covering Homeland Security and Defense Department are still to be passed.

Conservatives called this a missed chance.

Wyoming Republican Rep. Harriet Hageman said, “We only have a few chances to eliminate radical programming. We cannot afford to waste these opportunities by watering them down.”

She was an outspoken critic of ecogrief funds for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff will be given advice on how to deal with anxiety related to climate change and other changes in the environment.

House Republicans added a provision to their original Interior Department budget bill after The Washington Times exposed the spending in 2013.

The final version negotiated with a Democratic-led Senate drops the ban, and requires the agency to inform Congress of its activities within 90 days.

Senate negotiators have also defeated Republican attempts to ban versions of the Pride Flag.

The House Republicans included a list with approved flags in several bills passed by their chamber. The list of flags allowed included the U.S. Flag, State, Tribal or Territorial flags, Department and Agency Seals, as well as the POW/MIA Flag.

Rep. Ryan Zinke of Montana, a Republican who is a member the Appropriations Committee said that Republicans failed to deliver. The spending bill does not mandate funding for ecogrief or other DEI initiatives, but it doesn’t stop these efforts.

He told The Times, “Ofcourse I’m disappointed. But that doesn’t make me blow up the budget and ignore the incremental gains we were able secure.”

The Republicans cited as a few of their woke-policy victories: blocking funding for Mr. Biden’s conservation equity agreements in the Agriculture Department; halting an increase to diversity, equity, and inclusion programs within the VA; and cutting $275,000,000 from the amount requested by the President for environmental justice funding with the EPA.

A Republican aide told The Times that “House Republicans exposed wasteful DEI spending and prevented increases in those programs – and, in some cases, even secured decreases. This was a feat faced with a Democrat President and divided government.” If the Democrats had their way, this programs would have received significant increases.

The DEI agenda and earmarking spending were fought in that battleground. This is the first bill where Republicans are responsible for earmarking since 2011.

Republicans have blocked the spending that legislators tried to earmark towards an LBGTQ Community Center in Reading, Pennsylvania and The Pryde – a housing project in Hyde Park for LBGTQ Senior Citizens. The bill restored $1 million of money earmarked for Philadelphia’s William Way LGBT Community Center.

A surprising DEI battle was over the Smithsonian Institution Hispanic Museum, which is currently in development but is being tested with the Molina Family Latino Gallery now part of National Museum of American History.

Republicans claimed that the lessons on Hispanic history in the gallery depicted Hispanics and other minorities as oppressed. One Republican lawmaker stated that the exhibit had a “patronizing and quasi-racist” attitude during a committee debate.

In response to these complaints, Republicans included in their bill of last year language to stop new work at the museum and shut down the operations of the existing gallery.

The final bill removes the ban, and includes specifically $28 million that will be split between the Latino Museum, the American Women’s History Museum (also in the works), and a program for the repatriation of skeletal remains.

The Times contacted several Republicans who were involved in the museum project, but none responded to this article.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Connecticut’s ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee celebrated the Democrats’ victories over what she called the “extreme policies and cuts proposed by House Republicans.”

She said, while cheering for the bill: “We’re protecting communities in need and moving forward our country.”

Mr. Zinke stated that Republicans had limited room for maneuvering, as they only held a small majority in one chamber of Congress. This was compared to the Democratic majority of the Senate and the control of the White House.

He was positive about the future, the chances of a Republican President and the bills that Congress will write for the fiscal year 2025.

He said that, with the favorable conditions going into November, it is likely we will see a [continuing-resolution] beyond Election Day. You’ll also see more Republican priorities in the bill. “At this point, Democrats would be desperate to secure what they could and become better negotiators before losing both branches of government in January.”