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Abortion is key issue as Dems negotiate spending bills

·Senior Writer
·4-min read
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A debate over whether a prohibition on using federal funds to pay for abortion should remain in place may prove to be a hurdle for Democrats as they attempt to work out a budget deal and advance President Biden’s domestic agenda.

As progressives and centrists hammer out details on exactly which programs will be in the budget package and how much the total price tag will be, one key sticking point has emerged: the Hyde Amendment, a long-standing provision that prohibits the use of federal money for abortion except in the case of rape or incest or to save the mother’s life.

In an interview with CNN on Sunday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said she wouldn’t vote for a budget that had the Hyde Amendment in it. Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, has been a key figure in the legislative negotiations on Capitol Hill. When pressed on what happens next, she said, “This is a negotiation.”

Pramila Jayapal
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

“That is nobody’s business,” Jayapal added. “It is our business as people that carry the babies. And we have to be able to make the choices during our pregnancy.”

Jayapal was one of the Democratic congresswomen who testified before the House Oversight Committee last week about their experiences with abortion.

Democrats are hoping to include a program in the budget deal that would expand Medicaid in the states where Republicans have not implemented the program, leaving about 2.2 million low-income adults without coverage. That provision, as currently written, would not include the Hyde Amendment language, meaning federal funds could go toward abortions. Sixteen states already use their own funds to pay for abortions via Medicaid, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has said the Hyde Amendment is a requirement for his vote on the budget. With no Republican support expected for the budget deal, it requires total agreement among all 50 senators in the Democratic caucus, including Manchin, who opposes abortion.

“Yeah, we’re not taking the Hyde Amendment off. Hyde’s going to be on,” Manchin told the National Review last week. “It has to be. It has to be. That’s dead on arrival if that’s gone.”

In a Monday interview with the podcast “Pod Save America,” Jayapal left some wiggle room, saying she wasn’t suggesting putting a “repeal” of the Hyde Amendment in this bill. Because the amendment traditionally goes into every budget, not including it would amount to a repeal.

Joe Biden
President Biden at the White House on Monday. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Last month, Biden criticized a new Texas law that essentially bans abortion after six weeks. The Supreme Court, which let the law stand, is set to hear a case on a Mississippi anti-abortion law later this year that could result in Roe v. Wade being overturned, due to the court’s new conservative majority. Oral arguments for Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization will be heard on Dec. 1.

When the White House submitted its nonbinding 2022 budget request in May, it omitted the language banning federal funding for abortions. Biden, who had supported the Hyde Amendment since it was passed in the 1970s, reversed his position on it during the 2020 presidential campaign.

“I can’t justify leaving millions of women without access to the care they need and their ability to exercise their constitutionally protected right,” he said at a June 2019 event.

The then candidate cited Republican attacks on abortion access for his new position, saying, "For many years as a U.S. senator, I have supported the Hyde Amendment as many, many others have because there was sufficient monies and circumstances where women were able to exercise that right. ... But circumstances have changed.”

House Democrats supported a spending bill in 2019 that included the anti-abortion language, stating that it was necessary to keep the government running with GOP control of the Senate and President Donald Trump in office.

“You know, we are where we are,” Jayapal said at the time. “People don’t want to throw that into an appropriations bill that has to go to a Republican Senate and be signed by a Republican president.”

Women's rights activists
Activists march to the Capitol during the annual Women's March on Saturday. (Joshua Roberts/Getty Images)

Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, a member of the Democratic leadership, said Sunday that he didn’t want the issue to upend the entire package.

“I’ll tell you, I voted for [budgets with the Hyde Amendment] in the past because I have to measure it against the value of the package itself,” Durbin told CNN when asked if he will vote in favor of the budget bill, which Democrats refer to as Build Back Better, if it includes the amendment.

“Build Back Better is the future for many working families. It gives them a chance to finally break away from the inequality in our economy and to have some optimism about the future. So I don’t want to let the package break down over that issue."

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