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Washington Roundup: Foreign aid deal advances in House; three lawmakers threaten Johnson’s speakership

An elderly migrant woman from Venezuela rests as she shelters for the night at Our Lady of the Solitude Church in Mexico City Nov. 27, 2023, as she and other migrants wait for an appointment to be set up with U.S. Customs and Border Protection through the agency's CBP One smartphone app. (OSV News photo/Gustavo Graf, Reuters)

WASHINGTON (OSV News) — A bipartisan coalition in the House, led by House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., moved to advance a $95 billion package providing aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, over the objections of some far-right lawmakers who indicated they would attempt to remove Johnson from his role over the deal. U.S. bishops reiterated the church’s concern for immigrant workers and workplace conscience protections. And the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ religious liberty chair expresses concern about Pregnant Workers Fairness Act regulations including abortion.

Foreign aid deal could imperil Johnson’s speakership

A large bipartisan coalition of Democrats and Republicans voted April 19 in favor of a procedural move to advance the package to a vote, signaling widespread support for the package in the House despite objections from some Democrats about providing Israel further aid amid concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza, and objections from some Republicans to providing aid to Ukraine as it fends off Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked invasion of that country.

The bills would need to be approved by the Senate and signed by President Joe Biden, who has signaled his support for the measures. Its passage would provide aid supporters say is critical to allies as they fend off conflict.

But a trio of far-right Republicans have signaled they would make a motion to “vacate the chair,” or a vote to oust the speaker, over their objections to the aid and cooperation with Democrats. A House vote on the package is expected April 20.

By midday April 19, Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor-Greene of Georgia, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Paul Gosar of Arizona have all said they support a motion to vacate.

In the event that effort comes up for a vote, a slim Republican majority would mean that Johnson would need to win some Democratic votes in order to keep the speaker’s gavel and avoid a second historic ouster, just months after he replaced former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who has since resigned from Congress after a short tenure in the job.

Bishop Seitz: ‘Immigrant workers are integral to the life of our nation’

Amid reports that immigrant workers have helped prevent the U.S. from going into a recession, Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, said, “Immigrant workers are integral to the life of our nation.”

“They tend our fields, maintain our roads, and staff our hospitals,” Bishop Seitz said in an April 15 statement. “Through these and other acts, they labor for us all. Without their contributions, American communities would grind to a standstill. Not only are they working in some of the most arduous conditions but frequently with limited legal protections, and they are more susceptible to human trafficking and other forms of exploitation. Sadly, the risks faced by many immigrant workers were recently underscored by the Baltimore Key Bridge collapse, in which six immigrant workers tragically lost their lives.”

The church, he continued, “in her abiding love for every person as a son or daughter of God, gives special consideration to the poor, the marginalized, and the excluded.”

“As a society, we judge ourselves — and will be judged — by our treatment of those who are least empowered to advocate for themselves because of social, economic, and political obstacles,” Bishop Seitz said. “The Church remains committed to securing rights and justice for those who labor humbly in the shadows, and we urge leaders to undertake much-needed reforms that recognize their essential contributions. As we rejoice in the Paschal Mystery this Easter, may every follower of Christ live with the knowledge that ‘our brothers and sisters are the prolongation of the incarnation for each of us’ (‘Evangelii Gaudium’), and may that reality motivate us to a radical solidarity befitting our Savior who gave his life for the sake of us all.”

Bishop Seitz said in an April 12 letter to Congress that lawmakers should support further access to legal employment authorization for those with pending asylum claims. The letter cited a recent report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which found refugees and asylees made a net fiscal impact of $123.8 billion to the American economy at both the federal and state levels over a 15-year period.

Religious liberty chair expresses concern about Pregnant Workers Fairness Act regulations including abortion

As final regulations were published in the Federal Register for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act granting workers protections for time off and other job accommodations for pregnancy-related medical conditions like miscarriage, stillbirth and lactation — but also for abortion — Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty, stressed safeguarding workplace conscience protections.

In an April 19 statement, he argued that in implementing the regulations to include abortion, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defied congressional intent to protect pregnant workers by adding abortion to the list of related medical conditions covered by the otherwise pro-life law.

“The bipartisan Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, as written, is a pro-life law that protects the security and physical health of pregnant mothers and their preborn children,” Bishop Rhoades said. “It is indefensible for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to twist the law in a way that violates the consciences of pro-life employers by making them facilitate abortions. No employer should be forced to participate in an employee’s decision to end the life of their child.”

Kate Scanlon is a national reporter for OSV News covering Washington. Follow her on X (formerly Twitter) @kgscanlon.

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