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DC ‘Anti-Discrimination’ Laws To Take Effect Despite Republican Efforts

Despite a purely symbolic House vote Thursday night to block a District of Columbia law that claims to combat discrimination in the workplace, the law will take effect Saturday, as planned.

DC’s non-voting delegate to Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton, claimed a small victory in the failure of House Republicans to block the D.C. law, saying the symbolic vote only served to unify Democrats. And she even got 13 Republicans to vote no “in an ultra-conservative House.”

“The combination of the Republican resumption of the war on women and the overturning of a local law by the House, whose mantra is local government empowerment and control, will not be lost on the public,” she said in a statement.

In a vote that fell largely along party lines Thursday night, the House passed a resolution to disapprove D.C.’s Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act, which Republicans say would force business owners in our nation’s capital to violate their religious beliefs.

“At its core, the Reproductive Health Nondiscrimination Act is perhaps the most discriminatory ‘nondiscrimination’ law we have seen to date,” Republican Rep. Diane Black said in a statement. “While this particular law only applies to the District of Columbia, it sets a dangerous precedent for future legislation that could further weaken our long-held tradition of respecting Americans’ conscience rights.”

According to federal law, any law passed by the city council in D.C. has to go before Congress for a 30-day review period, during which time Congress can block the legislation with a joint-resolution. The resolution would need to pass both houses and be signed by the president before the review period expires.

Even though the House voted to strike down the legislation Thursday night, the law will still take effect Saturday, since the review period will end at Midnight Friday, and the Senate isn’t even in session. President Barack Obama also said Thursday he would veto the legislation if it some how miraculously made its way to his desk.

Norton’s victory may be short lived, though, as Republicans will most likely try to block funding for the implementation of the law through the House Appropriations Committee.

Congress has the ability to control how D.C. spends its local and federal funds by adding policy riders to appropriations bills. If they added one regarding RHNDA, it would effectively block the law from taking place.

In a letter sent to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Crenshaw, 65 other House Republicans asked him to ensure any appropriations measure for the 2016 fiscal year includes language that would prohibit the funds necessary to carry out any regulation associated with the anti-discrimination law.

“It is our belief that Congress must wield its constitutional “power of the purse” to prevent infringement of the fundamental protections for District-based employers and institutions,” the letter reads.

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