Family Research Council

Senate Rewrite for the Byrds

July 24, 2017

The Senate health care debate already had more plot twists than a Hollywood blockbuster. But on Friday, the real-life drama took another turn, sentencing Republicans to more late night problem-solving. Adding to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) heartburn, the chamber's parliamentarian flagged the pro-life portions of the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), suggesting that they don't comply with the rules for the fast-track budget process called reconciliation.

To qualify for the 51-vote threshold, Republicans have to prove that everything in the bill is budgetary in nature. And while defunding Planned Parenthood and banning taxpayer-funded abortion certainly seems like it would be, the question is a little more complicated than that. Democrats argued that the GOP was specifically targeting Cecile Richards's group, which, they insisted, made it more policy-driven than spending-driven. The parliamentarian, who is the umpire of elaborate procedures and points of order, seemed to agree. And while her ruling wasn't final, it did give the GOP something to chew on before heading into the formal guidance.

To pro-lifers' dismay (but not surprise), the parliamentarian also leaned toward striking the Hyde-like language that protections taxpayers from footing the bill for elective abortions through the tax credits Republicans created. But Senator McConnell isn't panicking. In an email to Republican offices, he insisted that the parliamentarian "largely follows what we expected; most of our bill is appropriate for reconciliation" and "a few items may need modification." Then, in a word of caution, "look out for bad reporting and Democrat spin."

Fortunately, conservatives were somewhat prepared for the parliamentarian's concerns and are already hard at work on solutions. That will come as a huge relief to House pro-lifers like Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), who made it clear (along with more than 70 other members) that the effort would be blown to "smithereens" without the pro-life provisions. He's right. FRC and other leaders have made it clear that defunding abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood is crucial to the bill's success -- and a major condition of our support. For now, we're confident that the language can be rewritten to comply with the Senate budget rules. After all, as Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) pointed out, it did in 2015. Some minor tweaks should be all the legislation needs to get it back in the parliamentarian's good graces.

The abortion subsidy question is much trickier. Under McConnell's BCRA, the money that helps pay for premium assistance -- the refundable tax credits -- is barred from covering elective abortion. If the parliamentarian decides that language isn't germane (which she hinted at Friday), the bill would be in serious trouble. Here again, however, we're encouraged by the number of senators who already had this on their radar and are working to find creative solutions that would close the backdoor to taxpayer-funded abortion.

Of course, none of that will matter if McConnell can't get 50 Republicans to vote for Tuesday's motion to proceed. As President Trump tweeted over the weekend, "The Republican senators must step up to the plate and, after seven years, vote to repeal and replace." That can only start when the debate does. Tomorrow's decision to move forward is crucial. If you haven't contacted your senators, take time to do that today. Ask them to support the motion to proceed -- and the language that protects the unborn in the process!

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Texas Tries to End P.C. in the W.C.

July 24, 2017

There may be 20 issues on Governor Greg Abbott's (R-Texas) special session agenda, but one may be getting more attention than the other 19 combined: the state's Privacy Act. Kicked into extra innings after House Speaker Joe Straus refused to move it, the bill was one of the driving motivations for the legislature to reconvene.

After almost 10 hours of "emotional testimony," the Senate State Affairs Committee voted almost unanimously (8-1) to send S.B. 3 to the floor. This version of bill, which was written by the original author of the state's Privacy Act, Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R), makes biology -- not "gender identity" -- the determining factor in which bathroom people use in schools and government buildings. It's hardly a radical concept, but you wouldn't know it from spoilers like Straus, who've done everything they can to block a bill that an overwhelming number of Texans (including 56 percent of Democrats) support!

That's mind-boggling to leaders like Lt. Governor Dan Patrick (R), who can't believe anyone would knowingly put women and children at risk to satisfy the far-Left's crazy ideas of political correctness:

"The majority of Texans are behind the bill... Republicans, Democrats, Anglos, African Americans, Hispanics -- you know the numbers nationally. Overwhelming. People don't want their boys and girls showering together. People in high school and women don't want men following their daughters or their granddaughters or themselves into the bathroom. It's not about transgender people. It's not about that issue. It's about preventing sexual predators -- not about transgender people -- sexual predators from using this as a loophole..."

Try telling that to corporate heavyweights like Google, Facebook, and others. They're descending on Texas, armed with the Left's prophecies of economic doom. Unfortunately for them, Lt. Governor Patrick points out, they've been duped. "These business leaders [who are lining up to oppose it], whenever I talk to them almost all the time they've never read the bill, they don't understand the bill. The Left has done a great job of misinforming some of the brightest people in the country who run these businesses to think that it's gonna hurt businesses, and it didn't in North Carolina."

And the irony is, this measure actually gives companies the freedom to set their own policies! Under the liberals' model, CEOs would be at the government's mercy on bathroom, shower, and locker room rules -- which, as we know from talking to them -- are the exact opposite of what they're demanding in Texas!

"Whenever I talk to [these business leaders]," Lt. Governor Patrick told me on "Washington Watch," "I always ask them, 'What's the bathroom policy at your company? Do you let men in ladies' rooms?' 'Well, no...' So I said, 'So you don't want the government telling you what to do.' And of course they don't." The bottom line is, as one parent testified, "Intimate spaces should be safe spaces." If Speaker Straus can't agree with that, it will be up to voters to decide whether he's fit to lead the Texas House of Representatives.

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

SCOTUS's Ginsburg Wants to Subtract Division

July 24, 2017

Heading into last November's election, the Supreme Court was a major priority for most voters. And given the state of our country, it's no wonder why. The deep political divides threatening to rip America apart have as much if not more of their origin in the Court as Congress. Apparently, that fact hasn't dawned on 84-year-old Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who told reporters on Saturday night that she yearned for a less partisan climate. If that's true, the answer is staring her in the mirror.

After a play about her dear friend Justice Antonin Scalia, Ginsburg said she wished for the days when people on both sides got along as well as she and Scalia did. Reporters for the Wall Street Journal were struck by how the justice "spoke longingly of the days when nominations to the Supreme Court didn't spark the all-out partisan combat that defines the process now, noting her own 96-3 Senate confirmation vote in 1993 and Justice Scalia's 98-0 vote in 1986." But, as Scalia himself would say, the justices are just as responsible for the change in climate as anyone. "Once upon a time," he wrote, "justices were chosen on the basis of [their] legal skills, honesty, and judicial temperament. [These days,] the most important aspect of a judge... is whether this person will write [a] new Constitution that you like."

With few exceptions (one of whom was just confirmed to the Supreme Court), few justices seem to understand the boundaries of their job. Instead, the Court has manipulated the Constitution to give itself the power to "resolve" profoundly divisive issues. In the process, they aren't resolving anything -- they're only inflaming tensions over subjects meant to be debated by the people's elected representatives. And black-robed activists like Ginsburg are to blame. For the better part of 40 years they've been short-circuiting the democratic process -- and the results have been catastrophic. Instead of respecting their role, the Court has tried to decide debates like marriage where there is no consensus -- and even less grounds for the ruling that followed. If it weren't for illegitimate decisions like Roe v. Wade, disenfranchising voters and elevating the Court above the Constitution, the divisions on abortion wouldn't be nearly as intense today.

"My hope," Justice Ginsburg said over the weekend, "is in my lifetime we will get back to the way it was." Ours too. But it will take a radical shift in the thinking of liberals on the Court to make it so.

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

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