- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 23, 2023

The House failed Thursday to override President Biden’s first veto, delivering a blow to critics of so-called ESG investing who tried to scuttle a Labor Department rule that allows retirement plan managers to consider factors like climate change and social justice politics in their investment decisions.

Republicans failed to muster the two-thirds majority needed to override Mr. Biden’s veto of that bill that would have prevented 401(k) fiduciaries from engaging in environmental, social and corporate governance investing — or ESG — that critics have denounced as “woke” capitalism.

The House voted 219-200, with Rep. Jared Golden of Maine being the lone Democrat to break ranks and side with every Republican — a similar result to when the chamber last month first passed the measure.

Mustering a two-thirds majority for any legislation is a tall order, much less in a chamber where Republicans hold a slim five-seat margin. Overriding presidential vetoes is historically rare — there have been just 112 overrides dating back 234 years to President George Washington in 1789, according to Senate records.

However, House Republicans sought to put Democrats on the record one last time on a subject that has become a leading culture war issue for the GOP.

Due to the failed vote, the Senate will not vote to override Mr. Biden’s veto, sparing vulnerable Democrats in the upper chamber from having to buck the president again.

The Senate passed the anti-ESG measure 50-46 earlier this month with bipartisan support, thanks to Democratic senators facing difficult reelection paths next year: Jon Tester of Montana and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer on Thursday called the House vote a waste of time.

“Republicans talk a lot about their love of free markets and letting the private sector do its work. But their obsession — obsession — with eliminating ESG would do the opposite,” the New York Democrat said. “By turning ESG into a dirty new little acronym, Republicans are trying to force their own views down the throats of every company and every investor.”

The GOP-led effort to roll back the president’s ESG rule was part of a broader strategy to peel off vulnerable Democrats to block Mr. Biden’s regulatory agenda through Congressional Review Acts, privileged resolutions that must receive floor votes and require only a simple majority. 

Mr. Biden earlier this week said his veto was about combating “MAGA House Republicans,” despite the rejection of his ESG rule garnering bipartisan support.

“I just vetoed my first bill. This bill would risk your retirement savings by making it illegal to consider risk factors MAGA House Republicans don’t like,” Mr. Biden said Monday in a video statement. “Your plan manager should be able to protect your hard-earned savings — whether [conservative Georgia Republican] Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene likes it or not.”

His veto prompted a scathing rebuke from Mr. Manchin, who said the administration “continues to prioritize their radical policy agenda over the economic, energy and national security needs of our country, and it is absolutely infuriating.”

• Ramsey Touchberry can be reached at rtouchberry@washingtontimes.com.

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