March 23, 2018
A chamber of groggy senators finally called it a night a little after 12 a.m., as overwhelmed by exhaustion as they probably are with the 2,232-page bill they just sent down Pennsylvania Avenue. With 994 more pages than the Gutenberg Bible, the omnibus wasn't exactly light reading -- and unfortunately for the taxpayers, hardly light spending either.
In a city that's numb to price tags, even $1.3 trillion ones, this spending package is par for the modern course. And according to the House Freedom Caucus, that's exactly the problem. Although most Americans are thrilled that our military won't have to scrounge around museums for plane parts anymore, the $654 billion for the Pentagon was never the difficult part of the omnibus to swallow. Our troops deserve a pay raise, new equipment, and better health care. As Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and President Trump reminded everyone, Congress is "delivering the biggest increase in defense funding in 15 years. Reports of training accidents and incidents point to a readiness crisis, and this bill fulfills our pledge to rebuild the nation's military."
But voters deserve something too, Caucus Chair Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) points out. And that "something" is the fulfillment of eight years of GOP promises. In a letter to the White House, urging President Trump to veto the bill, the House's conservatives stand united in their frustration with the process.
As you know, the American people sent a loud and clear message in the 2016 election -- they are tired of business as usual in Washington, D.C... They voted to stop sending taxpayer funds to abortion providers like Planned Parenthood. They voted to reduce the unsustainable, record levels of wasteful spending that occurred during the Obama administration. They voted to fix our health care system...The funding proposal drafted by the House and Senate not only forgets the promises we made to voters -- it outright rejects them.
For pro-lifers, the part about defunding Planned Parenthood still stings. After all, the Senate was one vote away from ending the forced partnership between taxpayers and America's biggest abortion business last year on the Obamacare repeal. The House, meanwhile, has held up its end of the bargain under Trump -- voting, not once, but twice -- to cancel the hefty checks to Cecile Richards's group. That fact isn't lost on House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who is just as disappointed as we are that the language wasn't included. "Look," he said, "they've been getting funded for a long time. We are trying to roll that back. Our health care bill, which passed the House and failed in the Senate by one vote, would have fully defunded Planned Parenthood. We've got to continue that fight ... I have worked very closely with all the pro-life groups. We are going to be rolling back some of the money that they are getting. We've got to continue to battle to get that done."
For that to happen, the House has to continue holding the line on the Planned Parenthood defund effort until the Senate gets its act together. Unfortunately, that didn't happen on this omnibus, so we have to keep fighting until the next funding vehicle comes along. Until it does, the GOP has to understand Americans' frustration. They're seeing headlines like California's, where even middle schools are becoming platforms for Planned Parenthood's propaganda. In Monrovia, parents didn't even know their sixth, seventh, and eighth grade kids would be exposed to the abortion group's message until they saw pictures of a display on social media. Not surprisingly, they were outraged. After a flood of complaints, district Superintendent Dr. Katherine Thorossian issued an immediate apology.
"Parents have a right to know what information is being distributed to their children," she said contritely. "This incident has shed light on the gap in our procedures and we will, from now on, establish and apply more stringent protocols to ensure that we properly inform our school community." According to students, the abortion giant was handing out its sex education materials (which is so controversial that parents have banned it from other districts), birth control, puberty, and STD information.
Of course, Monrovia is just one of the places that Planned Parenthood has pushed itself into public schools -- helped, in large part, by the half-billion dollars it rakes in every year from taxpayers. Yes, there are good things in the omnibus: a $10 million bump for sexual risk avoidance (abstinence) programs, confirmation of the ban on overseas abortion funding (the Mexico City Policy), and a rider that blocks the download or exchange of pornography at some federal agencies.
Obviously, there are some legitimate obstacles to defunding Planned Parenthood. (Republicans' slim majority in the Senate, for one.) But the sooner the GOP digs in on this issue, the better. Who knows how many unborn lives are hanging in the balance, just waiting for leaders to act?
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.