First came the human-trafficking bill, which passed unanimously out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and had 12 Democrats as co-sponsors. Harry Reid blocked that bill with a filibuster, thanks to belated concern from NARAL and Planned Parenthood over the Hyde Amendment language that would prevent the bill from being used as a back-door funding mechanism for abortions. Now Reid’s hinting at another filibuster over a Medicare compromise hammered out between John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi in the House, as the abortion industry wants to make sure it can make a few bucks off of it:
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) stands as the biggest hurdle to a rare bipartisan deal on Medicare backed by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
The political maneuvering is even more unusual because it is splitting Pelosi and the House Pro-Choice Caucus from Planned Parenthood.
The abortion-rights advocacy group on Tuesday slammed the deal, which would repeal a formula used to pay physicians under Medicare. It argued the legislation would also extend the reach of the Hyde Amendment, which restricts the use of federal funds for abortions.
“I don’t know the last time that expansion of Hyde Amendment has been supported by the Pro-Choice Caucus,” one aide to a women’s health group said.
Pelosi, for her part, pushed back against the allegation that she’d caved on abortion restrictions:
Pelosi disputes that the use of the Hyde Amendment in the measure she has worked on for weeks with Boehner constitutes an expansion. The funding for community health clinics at the center of the dispute already is subject to the Hyde Amendment, under an executive order signed by President Obama in 2010.
A House Democratic aide said Monday evening that Pelosi had worked with members of the House Pro-Choice Caucus to get additional language in the SGR package making clear that the Hyde language would expire after two years, when funding for the community health clinics runs out. After that, Congress could alter the language. But over these next two years, the aide said, the House will be controlled by Republicans. The language reflects the executive order Obama signed as part of the Affordable Care Act. “The status quo is the status quo,” the aide said.
But Senate Democratic leaders and scores of pro-abortion rights groups have said the change is much more serious than Pelosi is letting on. Because the funds already are subject to the Hyde amendment, the only point in adding this language is to insert it into U.S. code and expand the anti-abortion amendment’s reach, opponents argue.
“If this language is included in the SGR with the agreement of the pro-choice members, it will embolden opponents to place it in other laws,” the National Women’s Law Center said in a review of the deal. “It is always much more difficult to remove language that has been enacted than to stop it in the first place. The best example of this is the Hyde provision itself, which was enacted ‘just for one year’ 37 years ago.”
Why might that be? It’s because American voters overwhelmingly oppose the use of federal funds for abortions, that’s why. Even if the electorate is split on abortion itself, they don’t want their tax dollars funding it. Hence, the annual application of the Hyde Amendment to appropriations bills continues.
In the human trafficking bill, the funds involved are not appropriated. The executive branch generates these funds on their own, from statute rather than Congressional approval. Therefore, the Hyde Amendment language didn’t apply to funds generated within the human-trafficking bill, which is why the abortion industry latched onto it like vampires at a sorority house. It’s also why the solution proposed by John Cornyn — send the fines to the general fund and appropriate the expenditures normally — keeps the Hyde language in place.
In this case, it’s unclear where the line is drawn. Medicare funding isn’t appropriated either, but the doc fix might be covered through appropriations rather than the statutory collection of Medicare taxes as part of the entitlement program’s basic structure. If that was the case, though, then adding the language would be moot for both sides. That 2010 EO came from Obama as a trade with Bart Stupak to drop Hyde language from ObamaCare, which would have made the restriction statutory and applicable everywhere. If that’s what covers these expenditures, then Republicans are smart to add the Hyde language, because Obama could withdraw that EO at any time, and in fact most Republicans expect him to do it before he leaves office. But if that’s the case, then Pelosi’s right, too: the “problem” isn’t the doc fix bill, but Obama’s EO.
We are getting a good look at the pro-abortion advocates and their hold on the Democratic Party in the new session of Congress. If Harry Reid keeps throwing out filibusters to pipe taxpayer dollars to abortion mills like Planned Parenthood, Republicans should make sure voters in Nevada hear about it in detail … and voters everywhere else, too.