Trump Quarantines Abortion Money in Virus Bill

Trump Quarantines Abortion Money in Virus Bill

March 16, 2020

While lots of Americans are hunkered down at home, the U.S. Senate is holed up in its offices -- waiting for a crack at the House's coronavirus bill. And while there's a lot of uncertainty about what's actually in the package, Republican leaders won't have to contend with at least one thing: abortion funding.

The version that passed Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) chamber in the wee hours of Saturday morning wasn't what the House majority was hoping for. After word leaked out that Democrats had tried to tack on a secret slush fund for abortion, even MSNBC couldn't hide its shock. "What does that have to do with COVID-19?" host Joy Reid asked. What indeed, Senator Ben Sasse (R-Nebr.) argued. With schools closing and most every gathering postponed, he couldn't believe that Pelosi's priority was getting more money in the hands of people who take life, not treat it. "Speaker Pelosi should be fighting the coronavirus pandemic, not politicizing emergency funding by fighting against the bipartisan Hyde Amendment," he insisted. "We need to be ramping up our diagnostic testing, not waging culture wars at the behest of Planned Parenthood. Good grief."

When the White House got wind of the Democrats' plan, President Trump wasted no time warning House leaders what would happen to the bill if it got to him with that language: Absolutely nothing. Keeping a promise he made at the March for Life in 2019, the administration made it crystal clear that he wouldn't allow Pelosi to hijack the crisis with her radical plans to overthrow the Hyde amendment. Emergency or no emergency. "As the House conducts its business," the president wrote in a shot across the bow last January, "I urge that it respect and continue these other important pro-life protections... I will veto any legislation that weakens current pro-life federal policies or laws -- or that encourages the destruction of innocent human life at any stage."

The pressure worked. By the time the House voted, the language that would have compromised the Hyde amendment was gone. In an interview on "Washington Watch" last Friday, Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) cheered the administration's stand but warned that Congress still isn't out of the woods yet. "They removed the anti-Hyde amendment provision. So we got that back and protected the unborn, at least... [But] we have to be vigilant -- that's for sure... [There are] provisions that have nothing to do with the coronavirus basically being thrown into this thing. And that's just par for the course for the activist Left."

Like a lot of Republicans, he also urged caution on a bill of this magnitude. "It's a far-reaching and expansive and bill on spending," Congressman Biggs explained, and although both chambers are doing their best to work quickly, there are still very serious legislative landmines. "Panic is no friend to sound policymaking," NRO pointed out. As important as it is to combat the virus, it's just as important to make sure America isn't ravaged by Congress's solutions. Right now, neither side of the aisle can even put a price tag on the bill -- because no one can predict how widespread the pandemic will be.

"Most of the measures in this [plan] are something that the senators support," Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) agreed. But there are concerns just the same -- for small businesses, certainly, and the U.S. deficit. "Many of the 40 House Republicans who opposed the measure Saturday morning complained that they only had a few minutes to read the bill text," Fox News's Chad Pegram writes. "And, to this point, no one truly knows the cost of the measure. It's anywhere from tens of billions of dollars to the hundreds of billions of dollars." For Congress, it's a delicate balance. As much as everyone wants to help the economy, conservatives understand: we can't afford to create more permanent spending programs and entitlements.

Hopefully, a number of these concerns will be sorted out by the Republican Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has promised to work quickly but thoughtfully. In the end, Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) advised, Congress needs to "approach this with a level head and pass a bill that does more good than harm." It would be better to pass nothing, he said, than to rush through anything that could haunt us later on.

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

Feed the Need: Churches on the Front Lines of Virus Response

March 16, 2020

"Hunger doesn't take a break at times like this." And neither does Second Harvest Heartland. For food bank workers like Allison O'Toole, the coronavirus is only part of the country's crisis. The other? Feeding struggling families and older people who don't want to leave their homes. But as the need intensifies, so are a lot of churches' efforts. And that's good news for everyone in these anxious times.

Despite the challenges, people like Cathy Maes of Minneapolis's Loaves & Fishes are determined. All day Thursday, she says, she was in "intense conversations" with 33 churches and community centers about how they can keep the ministry running. Finally, after several back-and-forths, they agreed: the public dining service would continue. They'd just be extra careful. "How bad would my heart feel if we stopped serving the people," Cathy said, on the verge of tears. "We have to feed them, because people need nourishment to be stronger in case they get the virus."

Like the other 300 food banks in Minnesota, Cathy's working overtime to make sure they have the food and volunteers they need. It hasn't been easy in a country where grocery shelves are bare and more restaurants are shutting down. "This is an extreme situation," agreed Dave Rudolph, "but we absolutely have to continue to be a lifeline."

In Alabama, that lifeline is taking on a different look. Birmingham's Church of the Highlands is opening up as an official state testing site, with help from the Jefferson County Public Department of Health. Even though the church itself was forced to stream Sunday services, Pastor Chris Hodges is still committed to supporting and caring for the community. "We're continuing to pray and believe God for health, healing, protection, and peace that passes all understanding."

Just because the dynamic has changed, Michelle Lantz said in Michigan, doesn't mean their mission has. Volunteers at Delta Presbyterian Church and other congregations are teaming up to store and distribute food now that school districts can't. Using a new drive-thru model, they've been able to bypass some of the issues and get pallets of food to families. Other teams are filling backpacks with food for students who don't have access to the public-school meals. And now that classes are postponed, they hope they could have more people in line to volunteer!

As for the church itself, a lot of pastors are seizing the moment to let their lights shine. "We need to hear God's word and worship with His people more than ever," Harvest Christian Fellowship's Greg Laurie said. And if there were ever a chance for the church to step up, Miles McPherson insisted, this is it. While people are frantic and looking for answers, the church is in the unique position of providing them. As God's people, we also have the opportunity to help and minister in ways that no one else can.

Maybe your state has advised that the church stop meeting in large numbers. That's understandable. But there are other ways for congregations to have an impact. Just because pastors can't preach to full pews in some places doesn't mean that they can't open the building for prayer or gather in smaller groups. It's time to think creatively about how we, as the church, can lean into this crisis and be the place of stability and calm that Americans desperately need. There are always ways for Christians to engage the community if we refuse to hunker down and shrink back.

For those who aren't working, this can be a time to serve those in high-risk categories who cannot or should not leave their homes. Churches should begin within their own congregations and then expand to the greater community in areas like assisting the elderly with grocery shopping or prescription pick-up. Prayerfully consider how you and your church family move forward.

This should go without saying, but please continue to support your local church with your tithes and offerings. If you don't have electronic banking, most church offices remain open, so please drop your contribution off with your church so that ministry can continue.

Above all, we need to be a source of strength and encouragement as I discuss in my message below.

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

'There Is No Burden Too Heavy for God'

March 16, 2020

The government can do a lot of things to combat the virus. They can spend, test, isolate, and treat -- but nothing is as powerful or productive as calling the nation to its knees in prayer. And on Sunday, in response to the encouragement of several Evangelical leaders, President Trump did exactly that.

These are unique challenges, but the solution is not: we should seek the Lord with all of our heart. "You know," Dr. Ben Carson said at the press conference with the president, "We've gotten away from prayer and faith a lot in this country." Godly principles, he pointed out, "loving your neighbor," "caring about the people around you," those are the things "that made America zoom to the top of the world in record time -- and those are the things that will keep us there too."

Pray, President Trump urged, for those on the front lines of the response -- medical and health care workers, our first responders, the military, our federal and local leaders. "We are confident that He will provide them with the wisdom they need to make difficult decisions and take decisive actions to protect Americans all across the country... As we unite in prayer, we are reminded that there is no burden too heavy for God to lift or for this country to bear with His help."

May "God's health hand," his proclamation declared, "be placed on the people of our nation... As one nation under God, we are greater than the hardships we face, and through prayer and acts of compassion and love, we will rise to this challenge and emerge stronger and more united than ever before."

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