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U.S. House GOP bars earmarks for certain nonprofits, after controversy over LGBTQ projects


U.S. House GOP bars earmarks for certain nonprofits, after controversy over LGBTQ projects

Apr 25, 2024 | 3:25 pm ET
By Jennifer Shutt
U.S. House GOP bars earmarks for certain non-profits, after controversy over LGBTQ projects
The U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., is pictured on Thursday, March 14, 2024. (Photo by Jennifer Shutt/States Newsroom)

WASHINGTON — U.S. House lawmakers will no longer be able to request earmarked funding for some nonprofits under a change in eligibility made by the Republican chairman of the Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

The alteration is related to an uproar during last year’s annual government funding process, when House Republicans, who are in the majority, included three LGBTQ projects in one of their spending bills and then stripped that funding during a tense public markup.

The change to eligibility in the House affects nonprofits that fall under the Economic Development Initiative account within the Transportation-HUD spending bill, one of the dozen funding bills that are written by congressional appropriators.

The new guidance laid out by Chairman Tom Cole doesn’t apply to House lawmakers seeking funding for nonprofits in the other accounts eligible for earmark requests.

It also doesn’t affect how the earmark process will work on the Senate side. That means there is another avenue for lawmakers to secure funding for LGBTQ projects if they decide to make those requests and the Senate spending panel chooses to include it in its version of the bill.

“Similar to previous reforms made in this Congress, this change aims to ensure projects are consistent with the community development goals of the federal program,” Cole wrote in a “Dear Colleague” letter.

Cole, an Oklahoma Republican, became chairman of the powerful spending panel earlier this month after the former chairwoman, Kay Granger of Texas, decided to leave that leadership post early.

Connecticut Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro, ranking member on the committee, released a written statement, saying the change “is a seismic shift, as nearly half of all the 2024 House-funded EDI projects were directed to non-profit recipients.”

“In order to accommodate the extreme Republican wing, Republicans are trying to root out any help for the LGBTQ+ community,” DeLauro wrote. “They are willing to hurt their own religious organizations, seniors, and veterans.”

The eligibility change, she wrote, would exclude House lawmakers from requesting funding for “YMCAs, Boys & Girls Clubs, and other groups vital to our communities.”

Three LGBTQ projects

House Republicans originally included $1.8 million in funding for the William Way LGBT Center in Philadelphia, $970,000 for the LGBT Center of Greater Reading’s Transitional Housing Program in Pennsylvania and $850,000 for affordable senior housing at LGBTQ Senior Housing, Inc. in Massachusetts in their Transportation-HUD spending bill released last summer.

All three projects were requested by House lawmakers, the first step in the earmark process.

The projects were funded under the Economic Development Initiatives account that at the time was eligible for earmarks in the Housing and Urban Development section of the Transportation-HUD spending bill.

Cole, then-chairman of that subcommittee, removed the three projects through a so-called manager’s amendment that made numerous changes to the bill during committee debate.

While manager’s amendments are standard and typically bipartisan, the removal infuriated Democrats on the committee, who urged their GOP colleagues to reconsider during a heated debate last July.

Wisconsin Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan said at the time removing the funding was an insult to LGBTQ Americans as well as their families and allies.

“The fact that you would take away members’ earmarks simply because they refer to the LGBTQI+ community is insane, is bigoted,” Pocan said in July.

The final batch of spending bills Congress approved in March, following House-Senate negotiations, was slated to include $1 million for the William Way LGBT Center in Philadelphia, since the Pennsylvania senators also requested funding. But that was removed from the bill after it had been released, setting off a confusing blame game among lawmakers.

The final Labor-HHS-Education spending bill approved in March included $850,000 for LGBTQ Senior Housing, Inc., MA, for services for older adults within the Administration for Community Living account within the HHS section of the bill.

That funding in Massachusetts had been stripped from the House’s Transportation-HUD bill by GOP lawmakers, but was also requested by the state’s two senators and included in the Labor-HHS-Education spending bill within that chamber.

That final spending bill also included $400,000 for the Garden State Equality Education Fund, Inc., for trauma-informed strategies to support LGBTQ+ youth in New Jersey, within the Innovation and Improvement account for the Department of Education.

That funding was never requested by House lawmakers, but was asked for by the state’s two senators.