WASHINGTON (AP) – After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last June’s abortion decision, Republican Party leader Kevin McCarthy said, “Our work is far from done.” He didn’t say what might come next.
A year later, McCarthy is the speaker, the Republicans are in the majority and empty seats are beginning to be filled.
In less focused legislative action, GOP lawmakers are pushing abortion policy changes, trying to boost the work of rights activists whose strategy has taken their fight to the nation’s highest court.
In one government funding bill, Republicans are including unrelated policy provisions known as riders to limit women’s reproductive rights. Democrats say the proposals will never become law.
“This is not just an attack on women’s health,” Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the top Democrat on the House Governance Committee, said Friday. “I see it as an attempt to derail the entire process of funding the federal government by putting these drivers into the bill.”
Rep. Kay Granger, Republican of Texas, who chairs the committee, said at a hearing last week that the riders included continued “lifelong protections that are essential to our road.”
Using budget bills in this way is nothing new, but after the Supreme Court’s ruling struck down state-by-state restrictions on abortion rights, it shows a widening divide among Republicans on where to go on abortion.
For years, Republicans have voted separately in the House on bills to restrict abortion. Now, some in the party — especially the roughly 20 Republicans running for re-election in swing districts — are hesitant to call for abortion proposals, if not against them. As long as Democrats control the Senate, they say, such bills will never see the light of day.
The GOP’s new push is taking place line by line in a broad bill designed to fund government agencies and programs each year.
So far, nearly a dozen anti-abortion measures have been included in budget bills. On agriculture, for example, Republicans are seeking to reverse a recent Food and Drug Administration bill that would allow the birth control pill mifepristone to be dispensed in certified pharmacies, rather than only in hospitals and clinics.
Anti-abortion proposals have been included in the defense bill, with GOP lawmakers considering a ban on paid leave and travel for military service members and their family members seeking reproductive health care. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had been warned about this.
“I told them this would be a poison pill to get their legislation done here,” Rogers, R-Ala., said last week. “I said, you know, you’re asking for trouble. And now they are in trouble.
There are also riders in the financial services bill, where Republicans want to bar local and federal money from being used to enforce District of Columbia law.
“They seem unable to do anything without trying to put something in there to restrict abortion rights,” said Susan DelBene, the campaign arm of House Democrats from Washington state. “I don’t think the people were fooled by this and this will be an important issue in the upcoming elections.”
She and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are working to target vulnerable Republicans on the issue ahead of the 2024 election.
A broad effort by Republicans to include what critics often deride as “poison pills” in the process is a clash with Senate Democrats and the White House over the September 2 spending bills, ending the possibility of a government shutdown starting on October 1. The beginning of the new fiscal year.
DeLauro, who chaired the Appropriations Committee in the last Congress, said the decision by Republicans to include these measures was a betrayal of the agreement the parties reached years ago to block any spending bills.
Last week, the committee’s Democrats, who pushed these bills late into the night, pleaded with their Republican colleagues to rethink the abortion language.
The Senate last week passed the military and agriculture bills out of committee with no abortions.
Sen. Patty Murray, chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told The Associated Press that she would be a “firewall” against House Republicans’ efforts to further limit reproductive rights.
Mary, D-Wash. “I’ve fought Republican efforts to limit reproductive health care and abortion in every deal or negotiation I’ve been a part of — that’s not going to change anytime soon,” said Murray, D-Wash.
In an earlier statement with Maine Sen. Susan Collins, the top Republican on the committee, the two pledged to “continue to work together bipartisanly to sign serious funding bills into law.”
But the growing tension over abortion legislation among GOP factions is still evident.
The Republican Study Committee — the largest single group in the House GOP conference — recently issued a memo urging leaders to vote on a memo to members that would “declare health insurance plans that offer elective abortion ineligible for federal funding.”
That bill would make effective the Hyde Amendment, which limits government funding for most abortions. Democrats allowed it to be part of government funding legislation for decades as a trade-off that allowed them to focus on protecting other priorities.
It’s unclear whether House Republican leaders want to take the risk of bringing anti-abortion measures to a floor vote when the spending bill’s path may be more favorable to some in the party.