And this time they can’t hide behind Republicans, although Lord knows they’ll try. House Democrats plan to pass a budget bill that includes the suddenly-demonized Hyde Amendment prohibiting the use of federal funds to pay for abortions despite kinda-sorta-unanimous opposition among their presidential hopefuls. The Hill tries to kick-start the defense:
The House is poised to pass spending legislation on Wednesday that includes the Hyde Amendment, the decades-old ban on federal abortion funding that recently created an uproar in the Democratic race for the White House.
Weeks after former Vice President Joe Biden flip-flopped from supporter to opponent of the amendment under heavy pressure from his party’s liberal base, the Democratic House will vote in favor of a package that retains Hyde — which progressives say disproportionately hurts poor and minority women.
The reason for including Hyde is simple: The broader spending package cannot pass the GOP-controlled Senate and would not be signed into law by President Trump if it did not include language banning the use of federal funds for abortion.
That’ll be the company line from Democrats, but it’s hypocritical on its face. Here’s a fun fact: more Democratic majorities have passed the Hyde Amendment in Congress than have Republican majorities. From 1977, when it was first adopted, to 1995, the House remained in Democratic control while the Senate changed hands a few times. That’s nine sessions of Congress with the House under Democratic control, plus three more since that point, including this one. Republicans have only controlled the House for ten sessions of Congress since 1977, and for that matter since the 1950s.
“It’s the Republicans’ fault” is an excuse that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny in other ways, too. Democrats passed it in at least four relatively recent budgets with full control of both chambers and the White House: 1993 and 1994 with Bill Clinton, and 2009 and 2010 with Barack Obama. Why? Because barring federal funds for abortion is a popular policy with Americans, even those who think it’s a personal choice. If it’s a personal choice, then let the woman fund it herself. Demands for eliminating that bar on subsidies are the extremist position, as House Democrats have always realized.
Liberal columnist Bill Scher predicted this outcome last week. It might even get passed with aye votes from the same people demanding an end to the amendment:
We will likely see another example of Democratic acquiescence on Hyde in a matter of days. The annual health spending bill is coming up for a vote in the Democratically controlled House, and yet again, the bill includes the Hyde Amendment. According to the Washington Post, a tiny group of Democrats is pushing to strip Hyde out, but their amendment may not get a vote, as leaders don’t want to jeopardize passage of the rest of the bill. Not even Planned Parenthood or NARAL Pro-Choice America is lobbying against it; the appropriations legislation has other provisions they support, and they recognize the Hyde fight is a sure loser.
Four House members and seven senators are running for president right now, many of whom were hounding Biden on Hyde mere days ago. They will soon have to vote on Hyde as part of this health spending bill. The Post reported, “All have voted multiple times for spending bills that included Hyde; none responded Friday to questions about whether they would do so in the future.” Perhaps some will now cast a symbolic protest vote, but that might only open them up to charges of their own flip-flopping.
It’s a dumb fight, not made any smarter by a long history of conducting this dumb fight, as Scher notes. It’s about to hoist more than few presidential hopefuls by their own petard when votes on the budget bill come to the floors of both chambers, and it needlessly pushes contenders to the extreme when they should be finding ways to court the middle. House Democrats don’t seem inclined to have that fight now, and it seems unlikely that they ever will be ready for it.