Hyde Amendment Is New Obstacle To Biden Spending Plan

Philip Wegman, RealClearPolitics

Once again, the White House has fallen out with West Virginia’s senior senator.

Joe Manchin has made clear for months that the administration’s sprawling $3.5 trillion social spending package is too large, and just as progressives seemed to agree that the top-line number could be whittled down somewhat, the moderate Democrat drew another line in the sand, this one underscoring the Hyde Amendment.

This amendment is a long-standing agreement between the parties. It prohibits federal funds from financing abortion except for cases of incest or rape. Manchin would like it to be included in the budget bill. But the White House doesn’t want it. Thus has emerged another obstacle to passing the president’s legislative agenda.

White House press secretary, when asked about federal funding for abortion Monday. Jen Psaki told reporters that “the president opposes the Hyde Amendment. That has not changed.”

In an interview with National Review, Manchin was equally determined last week. As hopes for the bipartisan physical infrastructure bill’s passage crumbled, he insisted on the steps of the Capitol that “we are not taking the Hyde amendment off. Hyde is going to be” part of the larger “human infrastructure” measure. Knowing that his party can’t afford to lose a single vote, Manchin was insistent that Hyde be included in the reconciliation package, saying, “That’s dead on arrival if that’s gone.”

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This was the hard line that Senator McCain took on Wednesday. Progressives responded to the Saturday shows on Sunday with their own ultimatums. Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, asked by CNN’s Dana Bash if she would support a bill that included the abortion-funding prohibition, replied that she would not. “Let’s just wait. This is a negotiation and we’ve got to continue to move this forward, but the Hyde Amendment is something that the majority of the country does not support,” added Jayapal, whose caucus had flexed its muscles to stifle a vote last week on the bipartisan package when there wasn’t an agreement on the costlier bill.

Democrats acknowledge the danger posed to them by this division. Dick Durbin from Illinois, second-ranking Democrat, told CNN prior to Jayapal that he supported both the amendment and legislation without it. He will support including it again in the spending package, Durbin indicated, because “I don’t want to let the package break down over that issue.”

Republicans would be happy for Democrats to disagree on the matter. Conservatives are united against the reconciliation package, but they seem happy to light the flames as a way of keeping it burning. Heritage Action for example stirred the pot, noting that Biden recently changed his mind.

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“Biden is a flip-flopping politician who supported Hyde for decades before pandering to progressives in 2019 by coming out in support of taxpayer funding for abortion,” the group said in a tweetThis article explains how Biden changed his mind about the amendment and voted against it in advance of 2020’s presidential primary.

Manchin has, however, enjoyed the full support of the prolife lobby during negotiations. The Susan B. Anthony List has launched a months-long, six-figure ad campaign on West Virginia airwaves encouraging voters there to “thank Manchin for not forcing us to pay for abortions.” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of that anti-abortion group, told RealClearPolitics that “there has long been consensus among the American people — regardless of party — that taxpayers should never be forced to pay for abortions. We thank Senator Manchin for standing up for this consensus and for the pro-life values of his West Virginia constituents.”

Manchin isn’t the only one to speak out on this issue. During the 2019 State of the Union speech, he was the sole Democrat who joined Republicans for a standing ovation. He called for a 20 week abortion ban. This moment earned him an icy rebuke by Alexandria Ocasio Cortez of New York.

Photographers captured that moment, and while Trump’s proposed ban never materialized, Manchin’s position has not changed. Unless the senator or Democrats give in, the disagreement over federal funding of abortion could end up tanking a centerpiece of Biden’s domestic agenda.

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