Jul 26, 2023 - Politics & Policy

GOP abortion revolt swells against McCarthy spending bill

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images.

A growing number of House Republicans are involved in an effort to remove language from an annual spending bill restricting access to abortion pills, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The bloc has the numbers to kill legislation to fund the Department of Agriculture, where language about the pills is buried, and further heightens the risk of a government shutdown.

  • At a minimum, the rebellion threatens to delay the passage of the bill until September.
  • Spending bills must be passed by Sept. 30 to avoid a shutdown.

Driving the news: There are roughly a dozen Republicans pressing GOP leadership to remove the abortion pill language, according to Reps. Marc Molinaro (R-N.Y.) and Anthony D'Esposito (R-N.Y.). The figure was first reported by Politico.

  • "There's at least 10 to a dozen individuals that have made it very clear that it is an issue," said D'Esposito.
  • The language nullifies Food and Drug Administration guidance allowing the drug mifepristone, which is used in medical abortions, to be sold by mail and at retail pharmacies.

What they're saying: Several members — who, like Molinaro and D'Esposito, represent districts President Biden won in 2020 — went on the record on Wednesday with their opposition to the language.

  • "Some states allow [mifepristone] to be mailed, some states don't, but that should be a decision with the states and the FDA, not Congress," said Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.).
  • "If that language stays as is, we won't be able to vote for that appropriations [bill]," said Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-Ore.).
  • Rep. Nick LaLota (R-N.Y.) said he told voters he "wasn't looking to disrupt the existing policy" on abortion being a state's issue, adding, "I intend to fulfill that commitment."

It's not just moderates — the right-wing Freedom Caucus is trying to extract policy concessions in virtually every spending bill in addition to limiting overall government spending.

  • "All of these [appropriations] bills, with the slim majority we have, are going to be discussed up until the last minute," said Rep. Michael Cloud (R-Texas), a Freedom Caucus member who sits on the Appropriations Committee.
  • The group has been pushing to set new work requirements for food assistance in the Ag-FDA bill, which could further inflame moderates.
  • Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) told Axios that removing the mifepristone provision could prove to be an issue for Freedom Caucus members.

State of play: House Republican leaders had aimed to pass the bill this week, ahead of the August recess, but some Republicans are openly voicing skepticism about that timeline.

  • "It's not looking real good on that right now," Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.), the chair of the conservative Republican Study Committee, told reporters on Wednesday morning.
  • Moderates have been meeting with leadership on the mifepristone language, but so far a deal has not been struck.
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