The leadership team around new House Speaker Mike Johnson removed the bill — which would have defunded GSA’s digital services team, 18F — from floor consideration because of an intra-party policy dispute.
With a potential government shutdown looming in just over one week, the House of Representatives adjourned without voting on the $25 billion Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill that funds the Office of Management and Budget, the Treasury, the General Services Administration, the Office of Personnel Management and more.
Plans to vote on the bill on Thursday were scuttled because of an intra-party dispute among Republicans about a measure that forbids the District of Columbia from implementing a 2014 law preventing employers from discriminating against workers based on their use of birth control or for having had an abortion.
This is the second appropriations bill that had to be shelved because the GOP couldn't muster the votes to pass its own legislation. Earlier this week, House Republicans pulled the Transportation and Housing funding bill because moderate Republicans in the northeast wouldn't back deep cuts to Amtrak.
On the tech front, the General Government bill would have zeroed out appropriations for the Technology Modernization Fund, though the Biden administration had sought $200 million in new TMF funding in its fiscal year 2024 budget request. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., had sought to restore $50 million in TMF funding via an amendment to the bill, but it was not put up for a vote.
"The pandemic taught us that the federal government is only as good as its IT — a lesson my Republican colleagues are unwilling to learn," Connolly told Nextgov/FCW in an emailed statement. "I am disappointed that my amendments were not made in order in this year’s appropriations bill, but I will keep up the fight for as long as it takes to fully fund these important programs."
Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, sponsored an amendment to defund the 18F innovation group at GSA. That amendment passed on a voice vote without any debate from the Democratic side of the aisle, and without any request for a recorded vote.
Sessions, who is chairman of the Government Operations and the Federal Workforce subcommittee of the House Oversight Committee, said he wants to eliminate funding for 18F because of its role in managing Login.gov, the federal government's digital identity service, which got in hot water over claims that it met key federal identity proofing standards when it did not.
"So we have here a federal entity marketing a service to a federal customer that is intended to assure identity, but that federal entity is not telling the truth. This amendment targets 18F and not Login.gov itself. This is because, since its inception in 2014 in the wake of the Healthcare.gov debacle, trouble has followed 18F around," Sessions said on the House floor. "It was envisioned to be a tech-savvy group within the federal government that would…usher federal agencies into the digital era. But in practice, it was no more than a group run amok."
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