Abor­tion rid­ers in the spend­ing lime­light for must-pass bills

Lodi News-Sentinel - - NATION - By Jen­nifer Shutt

WASH­ING­TON — The de­bate sur­round­ing abor­tion ac­cess is about to spill over from the cam­paign trail to Capi­tol Hill as law­mak­ers be­gin de­bat­ing must-pass ap­pro­pri­a­tions bills.

Start­ing Wed­nes­day, the House will take up a nearly $1 tril­lion spend­ing pack­age writ­ten by Democrats that would roll back Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion anti-abor­tion poli­cies, in­clud­ing re­stric­tions bar­ring health clin­ics from rec­om­mend­ing abor­tion ser­vices and pre­vent­ing U.S. for­eign as­sis­tance to aid groups that per­form or pro­mote abor­tions.

But the mas­sive spend­ing bill keeps in place the four-decades-old Hyde amend­ment, which pre­vents fed­eral health care fund­ing, in­clud­ing Med­i­caid, the in­sur­ance pro­gram for low-in­come ben­e­fi­cia­ries, from cov­er­ing abor­tions ex­cept in cases of rape, in­cest or to save the woman’s life. The amend­ment is named for the late Illi­nois Re­pub­li­can Rep. Henry J. Hyde, who spon­sored the orig­i­nal lan­guage.

That’s an in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult po­si­tion for Democrats to de­fend these days, given the out­cry on the cam­paign trail even among pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates who’ve voted for Hyde in the past. Former Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den, a self-de­scribed “prac­tic­ing Catholic,” be­came the lat­est high-pro­file Demo­crat to publicly dis­avow the Hyde amend­ment Thurs­day af­ter tak­ing fire from fel­low can­di­dates and in­ter­est groups.

A group of lib­eral House Democrats, in­clud­ing Bar­bara Lee of Cal­i­for­nia, Pramila Jaya­pal of Wash­ing­ton and Ayanna S. Press­ley of Mas­sachusetts, filed an amend­ment with the Rules Com­mit­tee on Fri­day that would strike the Hyde amend­ment from the 667-page bill. It would also go fur­ther, re­quir­ing the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to “en­sure cov­er­age for abor­tion care in pub­lic health in­sur­ance pro­grams” and pre­vent the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, as well as state and lo­cal govern­ments, from re­strict­ing abor­tion cov­er­age by pri­vate health plans.

If the pro­posal cre­at­ing new cov­er­age re­quire­ments were al­lowed, it would be in vi­o­la­tion of House rules and sub­ject to a point of or­der against its con­sid­er­a­tion, since it would con­sti­tute leg­is­lat­ing on an ap­pro­pri­a­tions bill. The Rules Com­mit­tee will meet Mon­day and Tues­day to de­ter­mine what amend­ments are in or­der for the floor de­bate on the five-bill pack­age.

House La­bor-HHS-Ed­u­ca­tion Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Chair­woman Rosa DeLauro said in late April when her sub­com­mit­tee marked up its draft bill that a con­tin­u­a­tion of the Hyde amend­ment is a recog­ni­tion of po­lit­i­cal re­al­ity. The Connecticu­t Demo­crat said she op­poses the “dis­crim­i­na­tory pol­icy that makes ac­cess to ba­sic re­pro­duc­tive health care based on your in­come,” but ac­knowl­edged that in or­der to get a bill signed into law Democrats needed to main­tain the lan­guage.

Bren­dan Buck, who was a top aide to former Speaker Paul D. Ryan, pre­dicted an ugly gov­ern­ment shut­down show­down if that changes.

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