The Democratic-controlled House will keep in place a long-standing provision on abortion despite sharp opposition to the policy by Democrats on the 2020 presidential campaign trail, as well as prominent Democrats in Congress.
When the House votes next week on a major spending package, it will essentially renew the Hyde amendment, which prohibits the use of Medicaid funds for abortion and is tucked into one of the four large bills that make up the package.
The policy has been in place since 1976, but it’s become a hot button issue in recent weeks on the campaign trail. Former Vice President Joe Biden, who had previously backed the amendment, reversed his support and fell in line with most other candidates to oppose it.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley, a Massachusetts Democrat, introduced an amendment last week to essentially overturn the amendment, but it will not get a vote on the floor after the House Rules Committee decided it violated rules.
Multiple Democratic aides say they see no other path this week to remove the Hyde amendment ahead of a final vote Thursday on the package of spending bills, also known as a minibus. Those bills cover a wide range of federal departments and services, including health and human services, labor, defense, state, foreign operations, and energy and water development.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who controls the floor, is urging his Democratic colleagues to support the package, arguing the spending bill has too many other provisions that Democrats support. The Maryland Democrat told reporters that Biden’s recent flip on the amendment was “probably a rational decision for him to make.”
“But we have to deal with the legislative process here in the Congress,” Hoyer added.
Democrats kept the Hyde amendment in while drafting the bill out of concern that trying to remove it would spark a serious fight with the GOP and tank the rest of the bill, which Congress must pass before the end of August to avoid a government shutdown.
Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark, the vice chairwoman of the Democratic caucus, told reporters that Democrats felt a Hyde amendment repeal would become a “focal point that could collapse everything” else in the bill, even though Democrats generally don’t back the provision.
In an interview with CNN’s Manu Raju, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she doesn’t support the Hyde amendment but also outlined the political reality of trying to remove it while Republicans control the Senate and the White House.
“I wish we never had a Hyde amendment, but it is the law of the land right now and I don’t see that there is an opportunity to get rid of it with the current occupant of the White House and some in the United States Senate,” Pelosi said.
She signaled that Democrats are planting seeds to eventually repeal it, saying, “We have to get people ready … we have to get rid of that.”
Members and activists are turning their attention to a standalone bill to change the law. The “Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act of 2019” would counteract the Hyde amendment by ensuring coverage for abortions in programs like Medicaid, Medicare and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Members are trying to build support for the bill before it comes up for debate in committee. If it’s not addressed in the next year, it will likely come up again for debate in the next appropriations process a year from now.
Four members of the House are running for president and will vote on the spending bill Thursday. Those on the Senate side who are running for president will face the vote later this year when the Senate brings up its version of the same spending bill. Many of them have supported the same bill in the past with the Hyde amendment.
“Sometimes in a large bill you have to vote for things you don’t like,” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect when the House of Representatives plans to vote on its spending package.
CNN’s Alex Rogers and Morgan Rimmer contributed.