Disarray: Will abortion tank the Democrats' infrastructure reconciliation bill?

A noteworthy leftover from yesterday. To give you a sense of how eager Democrats are to expand access to abortion, a few months ago House Dems voted unanimously in favor of a Medicaid bill that would cover the cost of the procedure for the first time in 45 years. The party has been radicalized on this issue and they’re willing to use some of their power to prove it.


Unfortunately for them, the potential 50th vote in the Senate for the reconciliation deal on which Biden’s entire domestic agenda depends happens to be pro-life Joe Manchin.

Will you force House Democrats to pass a version of the Hyde Amendment for the new Medicaid-esque program that’s included in the reconciliation package, NRO asked him a few days ago? Sure will, he replied.

National Review: Senator, you’ve been very firm on keeping the Hyde amendment on the appropriations bills. Are you concerned about that issue at all in reconciliation—

Manchin: Certainly—

NR: —with this new Medicaid program?

Manchin: Yeah, we’re not taking the Hyde amendment off. Hyde’s going to be on.

NR: In the new Medicaid program?

Manchin: It has to be. It has to be. That’s dead on arrival if that’s gone.

“Dead on arrival” is strong language for the Decider to be using. The new program in the yet-to-be-written bill would extend health coverage to low-income residents in the 12 states that chose not to participate in ObamaCare’s scheme to expand Medicaid a decade ago. Manchin doesn’t want the new program to cover abortions. Is that a dealbreaker for House progressives?

It is for me, said Pramila Jayapal, head of the House progressive caucus, to CNN yesterday:

Pelosi has a margin of three votes on the reconciliation bill. It’s all but guaranteed that the Squad, at least, will support Jayapal in voting no on the bill unless it funds abortion in the new Medicaid-style program. That means Pelosi can’t get to 218, as there are sure to be no Republican votes for the reconciliation package.


Either Manchin has to cave or House lefties have to cave. And if both refuse, reconciliation is dead.

Is there a chance that progressives really would tank a bill worth trillions in new spending over the Hyde Amendment? Maybe. For starters, as Jayapal demonstrates in the clip, they seem to be under the illusion that the Amendment is unpopular with Americans. The truth is the opposite: Although most adults support some form of legal abortion, poll after poll after poll shows that they oppose using taxpayer money to pay for it. Liberal William Saletan reality-checked Democrats on that in a post written in 2019:

In every poll, a plurality of Americans opposes public funding of abortions. In every poll but one, that plurality is a majority. The questions vary, but the result is the same. Respondents support “banning federal funding for abortion” except in rape cases or to save the woman’s life (Politico/Morning Consult, 2019). They believe that “government health insurance programs for low-income women, like Medicaid,” should not “cover abortion” (PRRI, 2018). They oppose “using tax dollars to pay for a woman’s abortion” (Marist, 2019). They oppose allowing “Medicaid funds to be used to pay for abortions” (Politico/Harvard, 2016). When they’re told that “the Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funds from being used to fund abortions, except in the case of incest, rape or to save the life of the mother,” they endorse the amendment (YouGov, 2016). These polls aren’t close. The average gap between the pro-funding and anti-funding positions is 19 percentage points…

The sexes differ on other reproductive policy questions, but not on abortion funding. Consider a poll taken two months ago for the Kaiser Family Foundation. On federal funding of “family planning and birth control for lower-income women,” the gap between men’s and women’s answers was about 10 to 20 percentage points. On funding of Planned Parenthood clinics that provide “birth control, STD testing and treatment, and cancer screenings,” the gap was similar. But on funding clinics that “also provide abortions” or that “also provide referrals for abortions,” the gender gap disappeared. The Harvard poll found the same pattern: Women were more likely than men to support funding of Planned Parenthood, but not more likely to support Medicaid coverage of abortions.


A Marist poll published in January of this year was right in line, finding Americans split 58/38 against using taxpayer money to pay for abortion. The country is with Manchin on this, in other words, and of course his very conservative home state is even more solidly behind him. He has no incentive to buckle on the issue, particularly when it’s included in a bill that’s less important to him than it is to progressives.

“If we don’t get this, we’ll have blown an opportunity we may not have again for a decade,” said one Democrat to Axios over the weekend about the prospect of the reconciliation tanking. Are lefties really going to waste their chance to get a once-in-a-decade deal because of their fanatical commitment to making abortion as cheap and freely available as possible?

Well, remember that the Supreme Court is set to consider Mississippi’s challenge to Roe later this year, with a ruling expected next summer. Democrats’ last best hope of holding onto Congress is if the Court overturns that precedent, igniting apathetic liberals to turn out in November. A party that’s banking on abortion to galvanize its voters 13 months from now will logically be reluctant to counterprogram their own message by agreeing to ban taxpayer funding for the practice at Joe Manchin’s behest. Especially after the president of the United States famously reversed himself on a position he’d held for decades when he announced early in his presidential campaign that he now opposed the Hyde Amendment.


The left’s position on Hyde has become the establishment position, in other words, and they have good reason to believe that their base will soon be hyper-motivated to support expanding abortion rights. Why should they cave just because Joe Manchin says they should? If they’re deluded enough to believe that most Americans oppose the Hyde Amendment, they’re probably deluded enough to believe that it’s worth tanking a reconciliation package which they believe is too small for now and gambling that midterm voters will deliver them expanded majorities in both houses once Roe is overturned next year. Then they can pass a reconciliation mega-bill in 2023 that funds abortion and has all sorts of progressive goodies that Manchin won’t be able to block since he’ll no longer be the deciding vote in a new, more liberal Senate.

Exit question via John McCormack: Does Jayapal even understand how the Hyde Amendment works?

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