When the House and Senate fly back from Thanksgiving, they’ll get to work carving up something else: the federal budget. Although some of the heavy lifting is out of the way with last month’s two-year budget deal, GOP leaders have a big job to do before having themselves a merry little Christmas.
With government spending set to expire on December 12, Congress is barreling through the appropriations process to put a real funding bill in place for the rest of the fiscal year. For the last several weeks, the two sides have been negotiating a package that would bundle a series of agencies’ spending bills into one proposal, known as an omnibus. Of course, these budgets are immense, they’re complicated, and they’re loaded with political landmines like abortion funding.
Fortunately for new House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), budgeting is right in the former Ways and Means Chairman’s wheelhouse. The biggest challenge will be of a different sort: managing the priorities of his very diverse caucus. For conservatives, that means wading through a series of policy riders, which can amend the bill without necessarily being related to it. Both parties use this strategy to help set their agendas on a host of key issues.
In fact, some of our biggest victories for values have been protecting riders like the Hyde amendment, which bars the government from using taxpayer dollars to fund abortion. In this latest bill, it’s important for Republican leaders to keep fighting to include — not just riders like Hyde, but new provisions like the Harris amendment that blocks abortion funding in the ObamaCare exchanges or the Aderholt amendment, which stops the Department of Homeland Security from paying for abortion for illegal immigrants.
The omnibus is also the GOP’s best crack at boosting abstinence education, keeping the D.C. marijuana referendum from taking effect, or putting the brakes on Common Core. Already, pro-life groups are looking at the omnibus as another opportunity to pull the financial rug out from under Planned Parenthood. On that issue, Speaker Ryan has already staked out his position. “I’m not going to predetermine the outcome of negotiations that have not even taken place yet,” he told a reporter. “I don’t think Planned Parenthood should get one red cent from the taxpayer. That’s been my position for a long time.”
While states are suing for the right to drop Cecile Richards’s group from their Medicaid programs, Congress could also help by hitching an amendment to this package that gives legislatures that right. And under an administration that regularly attacks our values, Congress could take this opportunity to give Americans the conscience protections they so desperately need to live and work according to their faith.
The point is, Congress has a rare chance over the next two weeks to use its conservative muscle and make policies protecting families, life, and religious liberty top goals. Encourage them to do exactly that. Contact your House and Senate members and urge them to make way for these riders!
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.