The House just left for its second long break of this 118th Congress at the start of April. We like to take these recesses as a timely opportunity to review how PA-01 Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick has voted during the session. Should you wish to review his voting from January and early February in order to assess Fitzaptrick’s behavior in full during the McCarthy Congress, you can find it here: “Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick Proves To Be A Loyal Vote For The MAGA Majority In Congress.”
But thus far, Fitzpatrick is behaving exactly as he did in the first session – enabling the MAGA agenda at almost every turn, with one instance of performative dissent. Let’s dig in!
Brian Fitzpatrick Sides with Moms for Liberty
H.R. 5: Parents Bill of Rights Act
There is no topic that burns hotter in local political circles than that of book banning and the far-right extremist takeover of several Bucks County school boards. This issue has catapulted our community into the national discourse, with best-selling authors issuing statements and even making appearances at local school board meetings to protest the silencing of their voices at the hands of Moms for Liberty and Christian Nationalist backed discriminatory policies. Throughout this entire escalating situation, constituents have wondered where Brian Fitzpatrick stood on the issue of banning LGBTQ+ and BIPOC voices and books from our community’s schools, as he has stayed stubbornly silent on the topic for nearly over a year. But he finally spoke out as clearly as he can by voting to back the MAGA-Republican “parental rights” bill.
While the MAGA-Republicans may call it a “parental rights” bill, it is more appropriate to defer to the assessment of education professionals. The National Education Association says of H.R. 5:
“The so-called ‘parents bill of rights’ being debated in Congress will increase book bans and undermine local control and educator autonomy—while doing nothing to promote authentic, constructive parent involvement in schools… The bill’s supporters call it a “parents bill of rights,” another example of the deceptive but familiar ploy of using popular, digestible labels to disguise unpopular and destructive schemes… a well-funded and well-organized network of groups claiming to represent public school parents has spent the past two years stoking division and manufacturing outrages over classroom curricula and materials. Ultimately, the goal is to drain parental support of public education, destabilize the system, and clear the path for privatizers to steer hundreds of millions of dollars in public money away from public schools and students to for-profit enterprises.”
So, after years of silence, now we know. Brian Fitzpatrick stands with the folks screaming for book bans in our local school board meetings.
Fitzpatrick and the MAGA-Republicans cannot overturn Biden’s first Veto
H.J.Res. 30: Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the Department of Labor relating to “Prudence and Loyalty in Selecting Plan Investments and Exercising Shareholder Rights”
The Congressional Review Act (CRA) is a mechanism that can be used to overturn the rules of bureaucratic agencies. Vox explains that the CRA, which was introduced in the 1990s, “gives Congress extensive power to invalidate rules established by federal agencies and, in doing so, making it more difficult for any future administrations to resurrect the policies that lawmakers have struck down.” The CRA was used extensively by the GOP-controlled House and Senate at the beginning of the Trump Administration and in the 115th Congress to overturn Obama era regulations. Remember the talk of overturning restrictions on slaughtering hibernating bears in Alaska, and stopping the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from looking at discriminatory car loan practices? That was how the GOP used the CRA when given the chance. And Democrats used the same tool to overturn some Trump Administration decisions, like reinstating the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation of methane, which Trump’s EPA had ceased.
With the House in Republican hands, they have begun to pick through Biden Administration regulations, to find ones they can overturn. This is of particular interest to them, because these CRA actions are not subject to the filibuster, so they need only find a few amenable Democrats or Independents in the Senate to pass such an action.
In this case, the Biden Administration action that the Republicans had hoped to reverse was a Labor Department regulation providing guidance to pension managers. At question was whether pension managers could consider “Environmental, social and governance” (ESG) values in investing funds. That is a term that financial sector folks use when discussing how one’s value compass affects financial decisions – like choosing renewable energy investments over fossil fuel corporations.This is a fairly technical topic with a bunch of nuance, but when boiled down to basics, the Biden Administration’s rule says that pension managers CAN consider ESG in their decision making, whereas the Trump Administration had said it could not. (Anyone wanting to do a deeper dive into this topic to learn more should review the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance’s article titled “What boards should know about balancing ESG critics and key stakeholders.”)
This Congressional Review Act action was the first step to overturning the Biden rule, and it passed with all Republicans voting to support this change. In the Senate, the Republicans all supported it, and they brought along Fitzpatrick pal and Independent Senator Kyrsten Sinema, as well a pair of Democrats – Joe Manchin and Jon Tester.
At this point, President Biden issued the first veto of his residency, declaring in a statement, “There is extensive evidence showing that environmental, social, and governance factors can have a material impact on markets, industries, and businesses. But the Republican-led resolution would force retirement managers to ignore these relevant risk factors, disregarding the principles of free markets and jeopardizing the life savings of working families and retirees. In fact, this resolution would prevent retirement plan fiduciaries from taking into account factors, such as the physical risks of climate change and poor corporate governance, that could affect investment returns.”
Upon receiving the veto, the House attempted to overturn it. Brian Fitzptrick obediently voted alongside every other Republican to overturn the veto. However, Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s party could not muster two-thirds support in the House,so this veto override failed and the Biden Administration rule remains in effect.
Fitzpatrick backs muzzling federal law enforcement, his former colleagues
H.R. 140: Protecting Speech from Government Interference Act
In the months since they have taken the gavels for this 118th Congress, a main focus of Republican congressional hearings have been technology and social media companies. Despite mounds of evidence to the contrary, Republicans claim that there is a vast left-wing bias at companies like Facebook. One of their claims is that the scant efforts taken to stop the spread of disinformation is actually inappropriate infringement of first amendment protections on the part of law enforcement. And so they have introduced this bill that “prohibits employees of executive agencies…from engaging in censorship of a private entity while on duty, wearing a uniform, or using official government property.”
In a statement on the floor, Representative Betty McCollum, a Democrat from Minnesota, perfectly explained why this bill is both ill-conceived and poorly drafted:
“Americans know that if they see something, they should say something. Yet Republicans are offering H.R. 140 which will prevent federal law enforcement and intelligence officers from telling social media platforms when they see something that could cause harm. For example, when Russia mounted a state-sponsored campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election, FBI agents were integral in detecting these actions. In order for our democracy to flourish, we must have the ability to stop the spread of misinformation that could cause harm.
What this bill does is prohibit law enforcement and other federal employees from providing information on personal safety and consumer safety. If passed, H.R. 140 will allow the spread of harmful foreign propaganda, promote hateful and violent content online, and undermine our democracy. This bill is proof that House Republicans would rather protect debunked, right-wing conspiracy theories than the safety of our communities and our democracy.
When Republicans held a markup of H.R. 140 last week, they rejected commonsense amendments, including proposals that would have created a national security exception, an amendment to help law enforcement prevent violence incited by neo-Nazi groups, and efforts to ensure that federal employees could still share essential public health and consumer safety information.
Mr. Speaker, H.R. 140 is yet more proof that Republicans would prefer to fan the flames of far-right conspiracy theories rather than bolster safeguards to American democracy.”
Despite this impassioned plea to rethink this legislation, the bill passed along party lines, with Brian Fitzpatrick once again enabling the MAGA-Republicans and their extreme agenda.
Other Votes of Note
– Unlike so many other votes in this Congress, an effort to rescind some post- 9/11 war powers created a split in the House that did not crack along party lines. This legislation would have directed the President to remove armed forces from Syria. The measure failed, with only one-fourth of Democrats and one-fifth of Republicans voting for it. Fitzaptrick was with the majority voting NO. What makes this vote the most interesting, though, is that this bill came to the floor at all. Nancy Pelosi and most Speakers before her would never consider bringing a bill to the floor unless they knew it had the votes for it to pass. Not only did this measure fail, but Kevin McCarthy himself was one of the NO votes. We can learn a lot, though, from the Republicans who voted yes. That list contains most of the “American First” and so-called Freedom Caucus members, people like Majorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert, Scott Perry and Jim Jordan. This failed bill is the clearest evidence yet that they are the ones setting the agenda for this 118th Congress, not Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
– Bills that have an economic impact are scored by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. But the Republicans have decided that they also now need to get an estimate of the impact any bill might have on inflation as well. Elise Stefanik introduced H.R. 347: Reduce Exacerbated Inflation Negatively Impacting the Nation Act, and it passed, with Brian Fitzpatrick voting YES.
– Brian Fitzpatrick always places one vote that goes against the Republican Party line. This month it was on the Republican fossil fuel bill H.R.1, a measure that “expedites the development, importation, and exportation of energy resources, including by waiving environmental review requirements and other specified requirements under certain environmental laws, eliminating certain restrictions on the import and export of oil and natural gas, prohibiting the President from declaring a moratorium on the use of hydraulic fracturing (a type of process used to extract underground energy resources), directing the Department of the Interior to conduct sales for the leasing of oil and gas resources on federal lands and waters as specified by the bill, and limiting the authority of the President and executive agencies to restrict or delay the development of energy on federal land. In addition, the bill reduces royalties for oil and gas development on federal land and eliminates charges on methane emissions,” per the Library of Congress. Having lost some of his environmental endorsements in the last election cycle, Brian Fitzaptrick no doubt hopes his NO vote on this sop to the fossil fuel industry will help him earn back some green cred.
This second long recess ends on April 17, and House business will pick up until their next break for Memorial Day.