By Molly K. Hooper - 06/26/10 04:53 PM EDT
House Minority Leader John Boehner intends to press Democratic leaders to vote on a bill to ban federal funding of abortions.
The Ohio Republican told anti-abortion activists gathered at the 40th annual National Right To Life Convention (NRLC) on Saturday that he will co-sponsor a measure to ensure taxpayer dollars don’t fund abortions.
NRLC honored Boehner on Saturday as “Legislator of the Year 2010.”
During the recent debate on healthcare reform, Boehner was an outspoken opponent of the law, which many abortion opponents say provides federal funding for abortions.
At the time, the hot-button issue nearly derailed Democratic efforts to pass the sweeping healthcare overhaul.
Ardent anti-abortion Democrats caved at the eleventh hour, however, after President Barack Obama signed an executive order banning taxpayer dollars from paying for the procedures.
But over the past three months, since the bill was signed into law, Boehner contends that the White House hasn't “lifted a finger to enforce the president’s executive order on abortion.”
Boehner revealed that he even asked Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about enforcing the order, to which she reportedly told him “the administration is ‘working on it.’"
Boehner told the crowd that two weeks ago he broached the issue personally with Obama at a White House meeting with his fellow congressional leaders.
“Everyone in the room heard me ask the question. But we're all still waiting for an answer,” Boehner said.
As such, Boehner told of his intention to co-sponsor a bill that would codify into law that no federal dollars fund abortions.
“I'm pleased to announce today that Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey will be introducing legislation to accomplish this goal. I intend to be an original co-sponsor of the bill. And once it is introduced, I will call on Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer to bring it to an immediate vote,” Boehner said at the convention.
Boehner noted that the issue ranked high among those individuals participating in the GOP’s new tool to gauge the interests of their likely supporters in the fall, “America Speaking Out.”
National Right to Life Co-Executive Director Darla St. Martin said last month that Boehner’s “dedication to the cause” would be an inspiration for those attending this year’s convention.
“Throughout the battle over President Obama’s healthcare bill, Leader Boehner worked tirelessly to defend the rights of unborn children, the elderly, and the medically dependent,” St. Martin said in an announcement that Boehner won her organization’s “Legislator of the Year” award.
Saturday’s recognition of Boehner’s efforts in the anti-abortion fight marks the second time this year that the leader will have been honored by those actively opposing abortion laws.
Earlier this year, Americans United for Life gave him the Henry Hyde award.
Until recently, the top-ranking House Republican has been relatively quiet on the polarizing issue of abortion rights.
Admitting that he “never wore (his) pro-life credentials on (his) sleeve,” Boehner said that he was a “quiet warrior,” who “just voted for what (he) thought was right.”
Things have changed over the past 18 months since Democrats won the Oval Office, and he has taken on a different role as House GOP Leader in the 111th Congress without a Republican in the White House to set the agenda.
He has become more outspoken against abortion rights, appealing to a key GOP constituency of social conservatives.
So much so that earlier this week, in a speech against the campaign finance bill that narrowly passed the House on Thursday, Boehner pitted gun-rights against anti-abortion groups.
The leader criticized Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s (D-Md.) bill aimed at creating more transparency in elections as favoring certain advocacy groups over others – a bargain that Democrats had to make to rally enough votes to approve the bill by a razor-thin 219-206 votes.
Of the bill, Boehner said pointedly, “It would protect the National Rifle Association but not the National Right to Life.”