The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday night approved an amendment to a spending bill that would seek to bar several federal departments from withholding funds from the state of North Carolina if it fails to abide by the Obama administration policy that transgender people be allowed access to bathrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identities.
Republican Rep. Robert Pittenger offered the amendment, which passed on a voice vote. Democrats requested a formal roll call vote, likely to be held later in the evening. In a brief speech on the House floor, he accused the administration of “bullying tactics.”
North Carolina’s legislature passed a law in March limiting transgender people to using the bathroom corresponding to their biological sex in public schools and government facilities. Among other measures, the law pre-empted a Charlotte anti-discrimination ordinance that extended legal protections to LGBT individuals.
The Obama administration initially signaled it was considering withholding hundreds of millions of dollars if North Carolina failed to halt implementation of the law. But after the state and Justice Department filed dueling lawsuits over the issue, administration officials said no funds would be withheld until the courts had decided the matter.
Pittenger, who faces a serious challenge in the June 7 primary election, contended that “the president just can’t be trusted.”
He pointed to comments in which he quoted President Barack Obama as stating he lacked the authority to unilaterally make any decision regarding immigration policy.
“Right after that, he declared amnesty” through an executive order covering millions of undocumented immigrants, Pittenger said in a phone interview.
The measure that passed Wednesday night would prohibit use of money in the spending bill to revoke funding previously awarded to North Carolina via the Interior and Energy departments, the Nuclear Energy Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Jamie Bowers, a spokesman for Pittenger, said he plans to introduce similar language “in future appropriations bills, including the one covering the Education Department.”
Gordon: 202-383-0005; @GregGordon2