The real victory of reconciliation

Late last month, in a stunningly ironic decision, a grand jury in Houston indicted David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress for attempting to buy fetal tissue. The indictment arose from Daleiden’s work as an undercover investigative journalist, looking into the harvesting and selling of fetal tissue from aborted babies at several Planned Parenthood locations. Clearing the organization which made buying fetal tissue possible, the grand jury instead indicted Daleiden for the very crimes he fought to uncover.

Fortunately, many members of Congress understand the nature of Daleiden’s work and have been working persistently to defund the largest abortion provider in the country, due to the gruesome, unethical practices he uncovered at Planned Parenthood locations. To that end, last week the House attempted to override President Obama’s veto of H.R. 3762, Restoring America’s Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act, which would have removed the majority of Planned Parenthood’s federal funding.

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Congress often works on truly substantive bills. With increasing frequency, one or both chambers are passing measures that, if enacted, would advance a culture of life and save thousands of unborn children. Other times, they pass spending bills that help curb runaway, irresponsible spending. When all those efforts join in one piece of legislation, the result is historic.

H.R. 3762, commonly referred to as the Reconciliation Bill, is the result of a tremendous effort by members of the House and Senate who wanted to tackle problems with the federal budget, healthcare, conscience violations, and taxpayer funding of abortion providers in a way that sets new precedent for the future. It is easy to complain about a do-nothing Congress, or say that Washington is broken, or become angry that a Republican-controlled Congress cannot pass legislation. But this bill is irrefutable proof that not all is lost.

While Republicans hold 54 seats in the Senate – a majority – most legislation requires a preliminary cloture vote (“cloture” brings final debate to a close), with 60 votes needed to override a filibuster. And although pro-life organizations and members of Congress worked hard to find a way to defund Planned Parenthood through the short term Continuing Resolution and later the Omnibus, there simply were not the 60 votes necessary to pass these spending bills.

The only way around the Senate cloture vote is through a process known as budget reconciliation, which does not require a cloture vote – only 51 votes are needed. Extremely strict Senate parliamentary rules determine what can be included in this sort of bill. But once the Senate parliamentarian rules that a reconciliation bill meets all of the requirements, as she did with H.R. 3762, a new precedent is set.

For the very first time, using budget reconciliation, both the House and the Senate voted to divert most federal funding away from certain abortion providers and to defund Obamacare.  On January 8, they sent the bill on the President’s desk. This in itself was an historic victory.

Unsurprisingly, President Obama vetoed the bill that would have crippled his signature law and removed taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood. While the House did not reach the two-thirds majority votes necessary to override the veto, their attempt was a strong statement for the dignity of life, born and unborn, and a sound rebuke of the president.

This new pattern of legislative action presents a hopeful path forward. When the White House is once again home to a pro-life president, Congress will be able to pass this bill again using the template created by this reconciliation bill, and the president will sign it into law. This has never before been possible without a super majority – 60 votes – in the Senate. 

While the efforts to defund Planned Parenthood on the Omnibus were foiled, the truth is that the reconciliation bill significantly reduces mandatory spending – the source of almost 80% of Planned Parenthood’s funding.

This Congress has made a way for a future Congress under a future pro-life president to make the defunding of Planned Parenthood from taxpayer dollars a reality.  That’s good news for conservatives and all Americans.

Dangers is legislative assistant for the Family Research Council.

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