By Tony Perkins
If you thought your Christmas list was long, you should see Congress’s. Clocking in at about 1,000 pages, the House’s monster spending package — $1.014 trillion worth — will be “one of the last trains leaving the station” from the 113th Congress. Appropriators planned to release the bill text late tonight, which will help write the final chapter of this two-year experiment in partisan gridlock.
As usual, both sides are taking the debate right down to the wire — part of a regularly scheduled drama that seems to re-air every couple of months before the government’s funding runs out. But before members can switch off the lights and head home, there’s plenty of horse-trading and arm-twisting left to do in the sprint to a possible Friday recess. Even Mrs. “We-have-to-pass-the-bill-to-find-out-what’s-in-it” is threatening to actually read this proposal, a shock to anyone who remembers her infamous ObamaCare quote. “Let’s look at the whole package,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said without a hint of irony. But, as one Hill expert pointed out, “You have to not just be a speed-reader, but really be a Superman to get through all of it.”
With 11 appropriations proposals and one short-term Homeland Security budget to approve, most people are bracing themselves for January when Hill staff have had time to comb through the fine print. To help drag the “CRomnibus” over the finish line, congressional leaders seem to have given in to the temptation to kick some key battles into the New Year — instead of staying in town and fighting for pro-life measures to be included. One of those measures, the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA), could be the casualty of the holiday rush — leaving California voters in a major lurch until 2015. More than 100 members signed on to Rep. John Fleming’s (R-La.) letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) expressing concern over the state’s rule that every insurance company finance abortion-on-demand.
“This is a clear violation of federal law and another tragic attack on the First Amendment,” Congressman Fleming vented. “California is forcing individuals, churches, religious charities, and other employers to pay for health insurance that covers abortion services, even when such coverage violates their deeply held beliefs. By taking this action, California is forbidding the very existence of health plans that affirm life and that exclude abortion services. HHS is aware of this violation, and, under federal law, must not make federal dollars available to a state government that discriminates in this way. I’ve been joined by 132 other Members of Congress in writing to the HHS Secretary to seek the department’s action in bringing the California Department of Managed Health Care into compliance with federal law.”
Unfortunately, one of the only ways to correct the problem is hitching ANDA to a piece of must-pass legislation — like the CRomnibus. And now, with the window closing on the 113th Congress, this is just one of the issues getting sidelined. And it didn’t need to be. With the President’s party coming back with diminished numbers in January, negotiating now is their best crack at getting some of the stocking stuffers they want. A small pro-life concession wouldn’t have held up the bill, regardless of what Republicans believe.
Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law.
(Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)
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