In pretty much a party line vote last week, the House of Representative approved H.R. 3009, Rep. Duncan Hunter’s (R-Calif.) bill that would withhold certain federal funding to sanctuary jurisdictions around the country.

61056391_31343afdc6_oAll but six House Democrats voted against the measure and President Obama has issued a veto threat if the bill reaches his desk. (The bill was also opposed by five Republicans.) Like many of his Democratic colleagues, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), voiced objection to the threat of a cut-off of federal funds as a means to force state and local governments to comply with federal prohibitions against sanctuary policies. “I do not think we should punish and strip grants and federal funding from local law enforcement, cities and towns who are promoting community policing, public safety and the U.S. Constitution ahead of racial profiling and prejudice,” Mc Govern said.

Punishing state and local governments by stripping grants and federal funding is something the administration and congressional Democrats would never resort to, right? Well, that depends:

  • Last year, the U.S. Department of Education placed restrictions on nearly $30 million in annual federal funding for local school districts in Oklahoma beginning with the 2015-2016 school year, when the state repealed federal Common Core standards.
  • In April, when school districts in Colorado where large numbers of students refused to take standardized tests, the Department of Education threatened to cut-off federal funds if fewer than 95 percent of students in those districts did not participate in testing.
  • A federal website devoted to Limited English Proficient education informs school districts that English-only policies could result in loss of federal funds.  “Entities in states and localities with ‘English-only’ or official English laws are certainly not required to accept federal funding – but if they do, they have to comply with Title VI, including its prohibition against national origin discrimination by recipients of federal assistance.”
  • Last month, after the tragic murders in a South Carolina church, Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown (Ohio), announced that he would offer an amendment denying federal highway funding to states that include images of the Confederate flag on their license plates.

Opposition to H.R. 3009 is obviously not based on a principled objection to cutting off federal funds in order to force state and local governments to do, or not do, certain things. It’s about protecting sanctuary policies, plain and simple.