Sep 27, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Abortion pill measure likely dooms GOP spending bill

UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 27: Rep. Marc Molinaro, R-N.Y., talks with reporters after a meeting of the House Republican Conference in the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, September 27, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-N.Y.), talks with reporters after a meeting of the House Republican Conference in the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, September 27, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

House Republicans appear to be well short of the votes they need to pass a spending bill for the USDA and FDA due to language that would restrict access to abortion pills.

Why it matters: The bill's failure would further complicate the already difficult path to keeping the government open, with a shutdown by Sept. 30 growing increasingly likely.

  • It’s also the latest sign of GOP divisions on how to handle abortion in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

The details: The bill would reverse current FDA regulations that allow the widely used abortion pill mifepristone to be dispensed by mail and at retail pharmacies requiring the pill, so that it could only available in-person.

  • The Ag-FDA bill was previously pulled from the House floor immediately before the August recess due to GOP moderates’ opposition to the abortion pill rider, as well as House Freedom Caucus members wanting more policy concessions.
  • But House Republicans, desperate to pass more appropriations bills before Saturday, included it in a package of four bills that are set to be voted on this week.
  • Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-N.Y.) said the GOP’s goal is simply to have “continued progress, forward motion,” and that “we knew that some of these bills wouldn't necessarily have the support… to move."

There had been discussions about introducing an amendment to strip out the provision, but that didn’t materialize and the bill will be voted on with the language included.

  • "Leadership knew that this was going to a problem, and yet here we are,” Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) told Axios, saying that the provision “will be the reason why the bill doesn’t pass.”

What they’re saying: "It's a solid ‘no,’" Rep. Anthony D'Esposito (R-N.Y.), who represents a district President Biden won in 2020, said of his vote on the bill.

  • Molinaro said he is “not comfortable supporting the bill in its current form," due to both the mifepristone rider and cuts to nutrition assistance programs.
  • "I am not voting for the Ag bill," Mace said.
  • "My position hasn't changed throughout any of this," said Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.). Lawler previously opposed the Ag-FDA bill due to the mifepristone amendment.

Between the lines: Much of the opposition comes from swing-district Republicans and those in Biden 2020 districts — including D’Esposito, Molinaro and Lawler — where abortion restrictions are unpopular.

  • "I don't want to speak for them, but I would expect or suspect people in similar districts would be voting the same way," D'Esposito said.

Zoom in: The updated version of the Ag-FDA bill includes a manager's amendment that adds a 14.15% cut to all discretionary budgets within the bill, except for WIC, the program which provides nutrition assistance to low-income women and children.

  • Republicans adopted the manager's amendment in the Rules Committee over the weekend.
  • The original bill already had an $8 billion cut to the Agriculture Department, including cuts to SNAP benefits, another low-income nutrition assistance program.
  • The House version of the Ag-FDA bill has no chance in the Senate, which has already passed out of committee a bipartisan Ag-FDA bill with spending levels similar to what was agreed to in the debt ceiling deal.
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