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Abortion fight threatens Collins deal, risks shutdown

A new fight over abortion has thrown a late obstacle into negotiations on the year-end stopgap spending deal days before a possible government shutdown.

House Republicans say two ObamaCare measures that Senate GOP leaders are expected to attach to the stopgap as part of a deal with Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMcConnell: 'Whoever gets to 60 wins' on immigration GOP senators turning Trump immigration framework into legislation Longtime Clinton confidant blames Comey for 2016 loss MORE (R-Maine) must include Hyde Amendment language prohibiting the use of federal funds for abortion.

It would be a “stone cold nonstarter” for many House Republicans to vote for a stopgap that  includes the ObamaCare measures without the abortion restrictions, said one House GOP appropriations aide.

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“It won’t pass the House if you don’t have Hyde protections,” said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenOvernight Health Care: GOP chair blasts DEA over opioid enforcement | House passes bill to ease ObamaCare calorie rule | Patient groups oppose 'right to try' drug bill 40 patient advocacy groups oppose 'right to try' drug bill GOP chairman blasts DEA over reduced opioid enforcement MORE (R-Ore.).

But Democrats oppose including the language, which they see as an expansion of the existing Hyde Amendment. They argue including the language could discourage private insurers from covering abortions and insist they won’t back the stopgap if it is added.

Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGOP lawmaker: Dems not standing for Trump is 'un-American' Trump called for unity — he didn’t even last a week Overnight Defense: GOP plays hardball by attaching defense funding to CR | US reportedly drawing down in Iraq | Russia, US meet arms treaty deadline | Why the military wants 6B from Congress MORE (N.Y.) said Tuesday that adding Hyde language would “kill it altogether.”

Senate Republicans need at least eight Democrats or independents to back the stopgap to overcome a filibuster. The government will shut down on Saturday unless a new funding measure is approved.

The two ObamaCare measures are part of a deal between Senate GOP leaders and Collins that won her support for the tax-cut bill.

The first is a bill sponsored by Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderSanders wants pharma CEOs to testify on opioid crisis Trump expects us to trade clean air and water for updated infrastructure House GOP warming to ObamaCare fix MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayLawmakers eye retirement help for gig economy workers Overnight Regulation: Labor Department reportedly hid unfavorable report on tip-pooling rule | NY plans to sue EPA over water rule | Senators urge FTC to probe company selling fake Twitter followers Trump's vows to take on drug prices, opioids draw skepticism MORE (D-Wash.) that would reimburse insurers for giving discounted deductibles and copays to low-income patients. The second bill would give states billions of dollars to help insurers with the costs of covering high-risk, expensive patients.

Influential anti-abortion groups in recent days have lobbied Republicans on the issue, arguing that as written, the bills don’t include language restricting federal funding for abortions.

ObamaCare currently allows the insurer subsidies, called cost-sharing reductions, to go toward plans that cover abortions, but insurers must keep those funds separate from abortion services.

Anti-abortion groups have long argued that those restrictions aren’t strong enough and that the new ObamaCare funds should be under the Hyde Amendment.

“This would be taxpayers directly paying and reimbursing people for abortions. This is unacceptable,” said Tom McCluskey, vice president of government affairs for March For Life.

Alexander, Collins and Vice President Pence met on Tuesday and discussed the ObamaCare bills, a Senate GOP aide said.

While President TrumpDonald John TrumpTillerson: Russia already looking to interfere in 2018 midterms Dems pick up deep-red legislative seat in Missouri Speier on Trump's desire for military parade: 'We have a Napoleon in the making' MORE is believed to support the deal with Collins, it has long been controversial with House conservatives, who earlier this month sought to push back a deadline for funding the government until after Christmas to separate it from the tax fight. 

Many House Republicans opposed the ObamaCare funding because they think it “props up” the health-care law. Now, facing pressure from anti-abortion groups, Republicans are digging in their heels further.

“It needs to have Hyde,” said Rep. Chris SmithChristopher (Chris) Henry SmithTrump administration rescinds Obama guidance on defunding Planned Parenthood Trump to address March for Life via satellite Paul Ryan to speak at anti-abortion march in DC MORE (R-N.J.), co-chairman of the bipartisan Pro-Life Caucus.

“It would be Bart Stupak all over again,” he added, referring to the Democratic congressman from Michigan who almost sank ObamaCare in 2009 over objections to abortion language.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyOvernight Finance: Senators near two-year budget deal | Trump would 'love to see a shutdown' over immigration | Dow closes nearly 600 points higher after volatile day | Trade deficit at highest level since 2008 | Pawlenty leaving Wall Street group Lawmakers discuss extending expired tax breaks in spending bill Dow falls more than 1,000 in biggest daily point-drop ever MORE (R-Texas) said GOP leaders are listening carefully to their rank-and-file members.

“They understand where members are at on this,” he said.

At a House GOP conference meeting on Tuesday morning, a number of lawmakers raised objections to a stopgap that includes the Collins deal without the Hyde language.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanMcConnell: 'Whoever gets to 60 wins' on immigration Overnight Defense: Latest on spending fight - House passes stopgap with defense money while Senate nears two-year budget deal | Pentagon planning military parade for Trump | Afghan war will cost B in 2018 House passes stopgap spending measure with defense money MORE (R-Wis.) told members they are "not going to pass something without Hyde protections,” according to Rep. Phil RoeDavid (Phil) Phillip RoeHouse GOP warming to ObamaCare fix GOP lawmaker who treated train injuries discusses the accident Abortion fight threatens Collins deal, risks shutdown MORE (R-Tenn.).

Rep. Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeHeroin Task Force presses Congress for more funding to fight opioid epidemic GOP eyeing vote to fund the government through March 23 GOP lawmakers describe terrifying scene at train crash MORE (R-Okla.), who is close to GOP leadership, said Republicans don’t want to be seen as supporting ObamaCare in the first place. The addition of the abortion fight just dials things up more.

“I think [Ryan] listens to his members, and I think he got a lot of pushback on that today,” Cole said. “There’s no stronger pro-life person than Paul Ryan. That’s never coming through here without Hyde language in it.”

Anti-abortion groups have also been pushing Republicans in the Senate to just add the Hyde Amendment to the ObamaCare bills and avoid a fight with the House.

Some Senate Republicans have instead suggested asking Trump to pass an executive order that stipulates that the cost-sharing reductions can’t be used for abortions.

President Obama issued an order in 2010 to gain support from anti-abortion Democrats, including Stupak, who threatened to vote against ObamaCare because it didn’t have Hyde protections.

Sen. Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsMcConnell: 'Whoever gets to 60 wins' on immigration Overnight Defense: House passes defense spending bill in symbolic vote | Official resigns, worker fired for Hawaii fake missile alert | General says US would have 'minutes' of warning time after N. Korea launch Senate Republicans call on Trump to preserve NAFTA MORE (R-S.D.) said Tuesday that he thought getting Trump to issue an executive order could be a way out of the showdown and said that option had been discussed.

But that wasn’t enough for anti-abortion groups then, and it likely won’t be now.

“That’s not really the role of the administration,” McCluskey, of March for Life, said.

“That would be legislating from the executive branch. There aren’t two different standards just because a pro-life president is in the White House,” he said.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneOvernight Tech: Uber exec says 'no justification' for covering up hack | Apple considers battery rebates | Regulators talk bitcoin | SpaceX launches world's most powerful rocket Apple tells senator it may give rebates to consumers who bought iPhone batteries Republican agenda clouded by division MORE (S.D.), the No. 3 Senate Republican, said the House is likely to have to make a decision once the ObamaCare measures get through the Senate.

“If you look at where the commitments have been made in terms of Sen. Collins, the leader is going to be putting those on the floor, and I think they'll probably pass the Senate, and I think it's going to be up to the House about how they want to deal with it,” Thune said.