Angles We Have Heard on Hyde

Angles We Have Heard on Hyde

December 19, 2017

Republicans have been so focused on tax reform that they don't want to think about the next crisis barreling down the track. Even if the GOP manages to pass its IRS overhaul tomorrow, there'll be precious little time to celebrate now that there's another government funding fire to put out. Friday's deadline is breathing down everyone's necks -- with a new batch of shutdown rumors making the rounds.

As if the Democrats' demands weren't tricky enough to navigate, GOP leaders complicated matters with the deals they cut over tax reform. "Each side has promised its members things that won't fly in the other chamber," Politico warns. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) got liberal Republican Susan Collins (R-Maine) on board with the legislation by giving his word that the Senate would hold a vote on an Obamacare bill that would "reimburse insurers for giving discounted deductibles and copays to low-income patients." The idea, hatched by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), was already controversial with Republicans. But now that word is getting around that the plan is an open door to taxpayer-funded abortion coverage, the legislation is toxic.

"Simply put, it's a stone-cold non-starter without the Hyde language, as all conservatives will feel pressure to oppose," said one House GOP appropriations aide. Even if the Alexander-Murray proposal could squeak through the Senate, it's dead-on-arrival in Speaker Paul Ryan's (R-Wisc.) chamber, where the House leader said he isn't bound to uphold a deal he was never a part of. After all, most conservatives already opposed the idea of keeping Obamacare afloat, especially when, as the Congressional Budget Office points out, it's a "windfall for insurance companies." "Leadership might be able to peel off some opposition by adding [pro-life protections]," the House aide went on, but the issue will be a flammable one regardless.

At least 60 national, state, and local groups agree and sent a clearly-worded warning to the Senate. In a letter to all 100 of the chamber's members, FRC and others made it quite clear: "We are strongly opposed to Obamacare stabilization funding unless amended so such funds cannot be used for plans that include elective abortion. In addition, we will oppose any larger legislative package that includes stabilization funds for abortion-covering plans." Our friends at Susan B. Anthony List are prepared to join us to take Congress to the mat over the issue, shutdown or no shutdown. "Let's be very clear about this: A vote for Alexander-Murray (which is not covered by the Hyde Amendment) would not only be a vote to sustain the largest abortion expansion since Roe, but would also be voting to directly appropriate tax dollars for insurance that covers abortion," they argued.

A much better idea would be to pass the alternative by House Ways and Means Chair Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Senate Finance Chair Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), which states up front that their plan does include Hyde-like language. For Senator Hatch, this has been a concern since Obamacare was first debated. The Federalist's Christopher Jacobs reminds everyone that Hatch sounded the alarm about this deadly loophole back in 2009. "Obamacare's abortion funding restrictions are 'significantly weaker' than the Hyde Amendment -- a provision designed to prevent taxpayer funding of abortion since 1976 -- making them 'completely unacceptable' in Hatch's view and in the view of most pro-lifers.

Now, ironically, some of the more moderate Senate Republicans are trying to persuade everyone that this problem doesn't exist. They say that the administration can "fix this," the same phony reassurance offered to Rep. Bart Stupak by Barack Obama. Obviously, we're glad that Trump's Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is enforcing the "separate" abortion surcharge requirement for federally-subsidized plans. That helps with transparency about the coverage, but the accounting gimmick that's in place now assumes that taxpayer dollars are subsidizing plans with elective abortion coverage in the first place. Republicans criticized Stupak in 2009 for caving to these same claims that the White House could fix this. Why would they fall for that same line now? Echoing the sentiment of most pro-lifers, Jacobs, says it's offensive. "...Senate Republicans should not attempt to insult voters by pretending that those efforts will succeed legally, or that the 'completely unacceptable' abortion 'protections' Hatch described in 2009 are now sufficient."

Fortunately, the speaker gets it. Politico's John Bresnahan tweeted earlier this morning that, "Ryan also told House Rs that Alexander-Murray won't pass House without Hyde abortion language." Help send your senators that same message by calling their offices (202-224-3121) and emailing them before Friday's deadline.

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

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