Poison pills in House money bill for labor too much to swallow
Speaker of the House, Republican Mike Johnson, has pulled back a labor bill so loaded with "poison pills" that he could not get some of his colleagues to back it. He took advantage, however, of the administration's push for no strings-attached-funding of the Ukrainian and Israeli militaries to make himself look like he was protecting the interests of American taxpayers. He claimed he wanted first to solve the immigration crisis when, in reality, his and his party's proposals would do anything but end that crisis. | Jose Luis Magana/AP

WASHINGTON— House Republicans this week have put forward outrageous attacks on immigrant rights with their push for policies that will stop all efforts at meaningful immigration reform. They are busy impeaching President Biden with no evidence whatsoever and they have stepped up their now-temporarily halted drive to prevent workers from exercising their right to form unions and fight for better wages and health care.

In the face of all the Republican attacks on American workers, however, the Biden administration’s push for a $105 billion no-strings-attached handout to the Israeli and Ukrainian militaries has allowed Republicans to look like the “reasonable” ones on Capitol Hill with  Republican Speaker Mike Johnson entering via the door left open to him yesterday by saying his party will not allow giving away the hard-earned tax dollars of Americans to other countries without a full accounting of how the money will be spent.

At a joint press conference with President Biden yesterday Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky said he could not, for security reasons, give the press information about how Ukraine would use the U.S. dollars to win the war. The press, of course, was not expecting detailed information about specific planned military actions but just an overall picture of strategy rather than tactics.

On military aid to Israel Biden continued to say Israel had the right to defend itself and wanted the additional money to fund that country’s war against Gaza even as he was forced to admit that the continued killing of Palestinians by the Israeli attacks is losing international support for the Jewish state.

Meanwhile, House Republican right-wingers’ “poison pills” against labor, health, and social programs were apparently too much even for some of their colleagues to swallow. As lawmakers debated the money measure for a second time, GOP leaders pulled it as they didn’t have the votes.

But not before Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., the new chair of the subcommittee that actually was supposed to work on the measure, got a chance to crow about such items as virtual abortion funding bans, eliminating diversity programs and freezing Pell grants and other student aid.

“Over 50 programs are proposed for reductions and another 60 programs are eliminated,” he declared. “Title I [education} grants to states are cut by nearly 80%, or more than $14 billion.

Not to mention slashing OSHA, a favorite goal of the Republicans’ corporate class backers.

Virtually overlooked in the debates about military aid to Israel and Ukraine and the uproar and maneuvering is the Republicans’ one-third—$99 million—cut in money for the National Labor Relations Board for fiscal 2024, which starts October 1.

That brainstorm alarmed the independent NLRB Staff Union, which lambasted any cut in a prior tweet. Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., one of Donald Trump’s key House contacts before the insurrection almost three years ago, demanded a “bizarre” two-thirds NLRB cut when the debate originally opened last month.

Perry lost then 169-257, with 47 Republicans abandoning their colleague.

“With exploding caseloads, we have never been busier. we should be talking instead about how much to add to the NLRB’s budget, not how much to cut. We desperately need more funding, not less,” the union said.

Top Democrat alarmed

The one-third cut for the labor board—along with a 15% ($95 million), cut in OSHA money, a 16% ($63 million) cut to the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), and a 29% cut in enforcement against wage theft, alarmed the top Democrat on the Appropriations Panel, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.

The panel’s bill drew together a coalition of more than four dozen organizations, including the Teachers, the National Education Association, the School Administrators, and AFSCME, who slammed the cuts. DeLauro said the education cuts would leave schools available only to the rich and well-connected.

So did the organizations, in their joint letter to lawmakers.

“Those funding cuts would devastate America’s education system at a time when students are struggling to recover from the Covid pandemic to the detriment of students, educators, families, and the country as a whole.

“Supporting this bill means: Cutting education for students from disadvantaged households “down to levels not seen in decades, leaving districts serving the most students from low-income backgrounds and students of color unable to provide meaningful educational opportunities, and pushing hundreds of thousands of teachers out of the classroom.”

They also aimed at one particular poison pill, funding the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights, at a time of rising threats on campuses to students on both sides of the Israel-Hamas war.

“The bill hangs working families out to dry,” DeLauro said.

“They are putting workers who do find jobs at risk by cutting $313 million from worker protection agencies, like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. And a 30 percent cut to the Wage and Hour Division, the agency tasked with enforcing wage law and ensuring our children working illegally, will send the rights of workers in this country back to the time before World War II.

“Teen pregnancy prevention, Title X family planning–all abolished. And with riders that block access to abortions and reproductive health care services and force providers to withhold critical information…It is clear the majority does not trust women to make their own decisions and want to move us to a nationwide abortion ban.”

None of this stopped Aderholt. Indeed, he engaged in racial dog whistles over the massive education money cuts.

“Title I [education] grants to states are cut by nearly 80%, or more than $14 billion.

“While Title I grants do support school districts everywhere, including rural schools in districts like my own, these funds disproportionately support big city public schools:  the same public schools that failed to educate the most vulnerable children entrusted to them, by closing their doors for almost two years.”

All this was enough to halt the money bill. Asked about its prospects there, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer said, “We’ll have to see what the House [Republicans] come up with.”

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.