WASHINGTON — The House voted, as expected, to block a D.C. law banning discrimination by employers against employees who have had abortions. on Thursday night — but the measure is unlikely to have any effect before the law takes effect this weekend.
All but 13 Republicans voted for the resolution of disapproval, which passed on a largely party-line, 228-192 vote, while just three Democrats voted in favor of it. The measure got a high-level Democratic opponent on Thursday with Hillary Clinton’s campaign weighing in, calling it a move to “overrule the Democratic process” in a statement to CNN.
The bill would roll back a D.C. law approved in December that bars city employers from taking punitive action against employees for using abortion services or birth control. Under the Constitution, Congress can nullify laws passed by the Washington city council, but it’s required to weigh in within 30 days after the measure has been sent to Capitol Hill.
That deadline comes Friday, and both the House and the Senate must pass a resolution of disapproval to prevent the law from going into effect this weekend.
The effort was launched by Republican presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz weeks ago, but prior to this week its future was uncertain as House leadership had been reluctant to line up a full vote.
Under pressure from members in the conservative Republican Study Committee, however, House leadership scheduled a Thursday night vote on the law. Rep. Bill Flores of Texas, chairman of the RSC, praised the move and described the bill as a religious freedom issue in a statement.
“We first flagged this issue when the D.C. Council passed the law and have been resolute in our belief that Congress has the right and the responsibility to act in defense of our constitutional freedom of belief,” he said. “This is not about one city, but rather about preserving the First Amendment right to religious liberty for all Americans.”
Despite its easy passage in the House, however, there’s no indication the Senate will take it up, and the White House issued a veto threat against the GOP measure on Thursday.
Democrats have decried the move as flagrant congressional overreach into the lives of Washingtonians, and D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes-Norton slammed it as “wildly undemocratic” in a floor statement on the vote.
“This resolution is wildly undemocratic, it is a naked violation of the nation’s founding principle of local control of local affairs, and is profoundly offensive to D.C. residents. This resolution uniquely targets my district, but every member will get to vote on it except for me, the District’s elected representative,” Norton said.
Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri struck a similar tone in her statement to CNN, calling it an effort to “overrule the Democratic process” in D.C. and promising Clinton would do better by women.
“Hillary Clinton has fought for women and families and their right to access the full range of reproductive health care without interference from politicians or employers,” Palmieri said. “Hillary will fight to make it easier, not more difficult, for women and families to get ahead and ensure that women are not discriminated against for personal medical decisions.”
Team Clinton’s move to weigh in on the measure is a clear signal that the former secretary of state won’t shy away from the perennial controversy surrounding abortion rights as she makes her second presidential bid.
While Republicans continue to push restrictions on abortion rights, Democrats see the issue as a political winner as they believe it appeals to a key portion of their base — single female voters. And this time around, Clinton has embraced her gender, focusing heavily on women’s rights and the prospect of becoming the nation’s first female president.
By Alexandra Jaffe
CNN’s Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.