Jul 20, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Abortion threatens House spending fights

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Anti-abortion measures are complicating House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's (R-Calif.) efforts to pass spending bills before a government shutdown, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: McCarthy's struggles to unify his fractious conference in spending fights, even before tough negotiations with the Senate, means funding the government by the Sept. 30 deadline will be a tall order.

Driving the news: Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-N.Y.) told Axios he opposes a bill funding the Department of Agriculture over a provision reversing FDA guidance that allows the abortion pill mifepristone to be sent by mail and dispensed at retail pharmacies.

  • “There are several issues I have with the Agriculture Appropriations bill. If it’s brought to the House Floor in its current form, I cannot support it and will vote no," he said in a statement.

What we're hearing: Rep. Anthony D'Esposito (R-N.Y.) suggested the concern is shared by freshman Republicans from New York, most of whom represent districts President Biden won in 2020.

  • "The New Yorkers have been in conversation about it," he told Axios. "The conversations are continuing, we're going to express our displeasure to leadership and go from there."
  • Molinaro and D'Esposito both spoke out against a judge's ruling in April banning mifepristone, as did Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-Ore.), another Biden-district freshman, and Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), who has warned of the electoral consequences of her party's abortion moves.

The big picture: Spending bills that fund the Departments of Defense, State, Health & Human Services, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security also have provisions that would ban the use of federal funds for abortion.

  • The HHS bill includes a provision that completely eliminates funds to clinics such as Planned Parenthood that provide family planning services.

State of play: The Ag-FDA bill was passed out of the Appropriations Committee in June along party lines.

  • Like other House GOP appropriations bills, it sets spending below the caps laid out in the bipartisan debt ceiling deal.
  • Because of their narrow majority, House Republicans can only afford a handful of defections on party-line floor votes.

Yes, but: The National Defense Authorization Act passed last week despite concerns of a moderate revolt over a measure blocking a Pentagon policy reimbursing service-members for abortion-related expenses.

  • Moderate Reps. John Duarte (R-Calif.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) voted against including the abortion amendment but ultimately ended up voting for the final bill.
  • But restricting mifepristone goes much further than restricting federal funds for abortion, putting a larger group of Republican moderates from blue and purple districts in a bind.

What we're watching: House Appropriations Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) told Axios that she may submit an amendment to the Ag-FDA bill that would strip the mifepristone rider, setting up a potential floor fight.

  • Many of the abortion provisions, if they manage to pass the House, would likely be stripped out in negotiations with the Democratic-controlled Senate.
  • But the stark divide between the two chambers on both spending levels and controversial policy riders will make make funding the government on time far more difficult.
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