An overview and update of federal legislation

By Jennifer Popik, JD, NRLC’s Legislative Director

Government Funding

On July 29, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4502, a seven-bill appropriations package for the 2022 Fiscal Year that includes the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education (LHHS) Appropriations Act and Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) Appropriations Act.

There were significant pro-life concerns contained in the package, which National Right to Life raised in a letter to the House. No Republicans voted in favor of H.R. 4502. The vote was 219–208.

While House Republicans submitted amendments to reinsert pro-life protections into the bill, no pro-life amendments were added. LHHS Appropriations Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-OK) offered a Motion to Recommit HR 4502 to protect taxpayer funds from being used to pay for abortion on demand. The Motion to Recommit would have restored the Hyde Amendment, the Weldon Amendment, the Dornan Amendment, and the Smith Amendment, which were removed from the underlying bill. The Motion to Recommit failed by a vote of 208-217.

H.R. 4502 (the seven-bill appropriations package) failed to contain several long-standing pro-life provisions that have enjoyed bipartisan support for decades. As of last week, H.R. 4502:

*Removes the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding of domestic abortions, except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. This provision has been enacted in various forms continually since 1976.

*Removes the Weldon Amendment, which provides conscience protection for health care entities by preventing recipients of HHS funding from discriminating against health care providers because they refuse to provide, pay for, or refer for abortion.

*Expands funding for Title X family planning and creates new statutory requirements surrounding abortion counseling. Under the Biden Administration, it is expected that abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood, will be able to draw funds while co-locating family planning distribution with their abortion services.

*Removes the Smith Amendment, which prevents funding for elective abortions through the Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) program, and the Dornan Amendment. This prevents appropriated funds (from Federal or D.C. revenues) from being used for abortion in the District of Columbia.

In addition, on July 28th, the House passed H.R. 4373, the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2022, by a vote of 217 – 212.  Again, no Republicans voted in favor of the bill.

H.R. 4373 also failed to include longstanding pro-life provisions. H.R. 4373:

*Removes the Helms Amendment. The bill removes language preventing foreign aid from directly paying for abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce anyone to practice abortion or involuntary sterilization.

*Weakens the Kemp-Kasten Amendment.  The bill weakens the provision that authorizes the President to discontinue funding to organizations that support or participate in the management of a coercive population control/abortion program.

For more on the Hyde amendment and appropriations, see:www.nrlc.org/hyde

It is imperative that pro-lifers let their representatives know that Hyde must be saved. Go to our Legislative Action Center to find out how you can contact your representative or Senator.

September 30th is the deadline for funding the government, at which point a stopgap measure would be necessary to keep the government open. Pro-life Senators are committed to saving the Hyde Amendment and will continue working toward that goal. 

Infrastructure

The House has recessed for August but could be called back for votes on the infrastructure bill. Before the Senate recessed, the Senate worked on two infrastructure bills.  S. Cong. Res. 14 on “human infrastructure” is likely to contain pro-life concerns. 

Early on August 11th, in a vote of 50-49, the Senate voted to advance the S. Con. Res. 14 infrastructure bill.  The budget instructions included an amendment offered on the Senate floor by Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) to support the Hyde Amendment.

The Lankford Amendment was added in a largely party-line vote of 50-49. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) joined Republicans to support the pro-life amendment showing support for Hyde.

Additional pro-life amendments were offered during the process on the infrastructure bill dubbed a “vote-a-rama.” CNN explains a vote-a-rama as:

Usually in the legislative process, lawmakers can use a series of procedural maneuvers to avoid voting on amendments. But in a budget reconciliation process — which Democrats are using to advance their sweeping package — you can’t do that.

Lawmakers cannot hold a final vote on a reconciliation bill until all the amendments have been “disposed of,” or in simpler terms, “voted on.”

The practice involves votes on a series of amendments that can — and usually do — stretch for hours.

The party in charge typically wants to move this vote-a-rama along as quickly as possible with as few votes as possible. The minority party takes the opportunity to force votes on all kinds of measures they don’t typically have the power to put on the floor.

The vote-a-rama was an opportunity for pro-life Senators to offer amendments supporting the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal funds from being used to pay for abortions; the Weldon Amendment that protects conscience rights of health care providers and entities; and other amendments designed to show support for protecting innocent human life. In all, three amendments were offered:

*The Lankford Amendment which showed support for protecting the Hyde Amendment which would prohibit federal funding for abortion. The Lankford Amendment was also in support of conscience protections (Weldon).

*The Kennedy Amendment which supported a prohibition on abortions after 20 weeks (consistent with the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act”). The amendment was rejected in a vote of 48-51. Senator Manchin (D-W. Va.) was the only Democrat to join with Republicans to vote yes.

*The Inhofe Amendment which would support protecting unborn children with Down syndrome from abortion was rejected in a vote of 49-50. Senator Manchin was the only Democrat to join Republicans to vote yes.

The amendments are non-binding (meaning that they are not tied permanently to the legislation), but they give pro-life Republicans the opportunity to shed light on how extreme pro-abortion Democrats are and the lengths they will go to fighting protective legislation. The vote also gives Senate leadership a clear picture of which votes they can count on to protect pro-life policies or support pro-life legislation.

S. Con. Res. 14, the Democrat only spending bill, would be considered under reconciliation after House action. (Passage under reconciliation requires only 50 votes because the Vice President, as President of the Senate, would cast the tie-breaking vote.)  The measure is certain to contain elements related to healthcare, and taxpayer funding of abortion.  

National Right to Life will follow action on these bills very closely.