House Republicans approved sweeping “Parents Bill of Rights” legislation on a 213-208 vote Friday morning, amid five GOP defections.
The legislation — H.R. 5 (118) — is the cornerstone of the GOP’s education agenda and mirrors several policies that have been introduced or adopted in states across the country. It outlines what parents have the right to in their children’s education, including access to teacher-parent meetings, school budget materials, curriculum and books, and the opportunity to testify before a school board.
The ‘no’ votes: Five Republicans voted against the bill: Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Ken Buck (R-Colo.), Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) and Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.). No Democrats voted in favor.
Amendment drama: The bill also became a sweeping vehicle for several other GOP priorities such as ensuring parents know what their schooling options are and policies on transgender students. However, Republicans failed to shore up enough votes to add a sense of Congress that the Education Department should be eliminated by the end of the calendar year.
Roughly half of the 22 amendments considered on the floor were tacked onto the legislation ahead of the final vote, which came after some internal strife among Republicans about the limited debate. The amendments that received bipartisan support included requiring schools to provide parents timely notices on major cyberattacks and the GAO to submit a report to Congress on the cost of the requirements of the bill and to evaluate the impact of the bill on protecting parents’ rights.
The legislation — which has already faced condemnation from the White House — will not be brought up on the other side of the Capitol, said Senate Majority Leader Schumer, who vowed Friday that the bill “will meet a dead end” in his chamber.
The Education Department was also quick to criticize the bill.
“The Biden-Harris Administration is happy to work with House Republicans on the issues most important to parents. … Unfortunately, looking at Republican officials’ track record on education, it’s not rooted in the reality that parents are living in,” an Education Department spokesperson told POLITICO in a statement. “Whether it be cutting funding for public education, ignoring tragic gun violence in our schools, or banning books to fit a political agenda, Republican officials are focused more on playing politics than helping our parents, kids and schools.”
Still, the House vote does allow Republicans to use Democrats’ vote against a “Parents Bill of Rights” as 2024 campaign fodder.
While the measure was lauded by many Republicans, especially the party’s leadership, Democrats and the handful of Republicans who voted against the measure criticized it.
Gaetz on Twitter said he voted against the bill because “the federal government SHOULD NOT be involved in education” and he wants to “abolish” the Education Department.
Buck also expressed a similar sentiment, tweeting that “the overwhelming majority of the House Republicans will now be on record supporting the idea of expanded federal powers in your child’s education.”
Pushback on transgender student provisions: Several LGBTQ advocacy groups denounced the legislation due to the inclusion of provisions that establish that a parent has the right to know whether their child’s school allows transgender girls to play on sports teams or use restrooms and changing rooms that match their gender identity. The bill would also require schools gain parental consent to allow students to use different names and pronouns or facilities that match their gender identity.
“These efforts to censor curriculum and force the outing of transgender and nonbinary students are borrowing from a discriminatory wave of bills sweeping the country — a wave of bills, incidentally, that the majority of voters have not asked for and do not support,” said David Stacy, the government affairs director for the Human Rights Campaign.
In the coming weeks, Republicans are expected to consider a bill — H.R. 734 (118), the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act of 2023 — that would restrict transgender girls from playing on women and girls’ sports teams.
Lawmakers attached the amendments seeking to mandate disclosures around transgender students by voice vote this week, signaling that lawmakers on both parties weren’t yet ready to force their colleagues into a roll call on the sensitive issue. The sports bill would be the next prominent opportunity for the GOP to put lawmakers on record for gender identity policies.
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