Week ahead: Senate looks to end abortion fight

The Senate on Monday will resume efforts to end a month-long standstill over an anti-trafficking bill that has been derailed by abortion language.

Funding for abortion continues to stall the debate, prompting each party to accuse the other of “playing politics” with trafficking victims.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellEverytown plans ad blitz on anniversary of House background check bill Kentucky state official says foreign adversaries 'routinely' scan election systems Don't let 'welfare for all' advocates derail administration's food stamp program reforms MORE (R-Ky.) said he hopes to finally hold a vote early this week, which could clear the way for the chamber to finally consider President Obama’s waiting attorney general nominee.

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“It’s my hope that we’ll be able to go through an orderly amendment process and pass a trafficking bill early next week,” he told reporters on Thursday.

Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowOn The Money: GAO to investigate Trump aid for farmers | Bloomberg calls for bolstering Dodd-Frank | Where the 2020 Democrats stand on taxes GAO launches investigation into Trump aid for farmers Democrats worried about Trump's growing strength MORE (D-Mich.) added Thursday that “it looks like there’s a serious possibility” of coming to an agreement.

The bill’s author, Senate majority whip John CornynJohn CornynTrump Medicaid proposal sparks bipartisan warnings Senate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Booker, Cornyn introduce bill to fund school nutrition programs MORE (R-Texas), said late last week that he made changes to the abortion language in the bill, though Democrats argued that it ignored their greater concerns about the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortion.

Republicans say Cornyn’s latest amendment would treat funds like those under the Public Health Services Act — the same language included in the recently passed $200 billion Medicare “doc fix” bill.

But Democrats are worried that the Hyde Amendment would still eventually apply. They argue that this bill, unlike the doc fix, would involve private, non-taxpayer funds that should not be subjected to a rule on abortion funding.

As abortion politics continue to cause headaches in the Senate, House Republicans are also slowly unveiling details about their plans to revive their previously stalled ban on late-term abortions.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters Monday that the bill is one of three previously pulled bills that he plans to prioritize in the remainder of the session.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), co-chairman of the House Pro-Life Caucus, said the bill is “going to come up” soon. He added that the new version of the ban is not vastly different from the bill that leaders pulled from the floor earlier this year.

The bill’s lead author, Rep. Trent FranksHarold (Trent) Trent FranksArizona New Members 2019 Cook shifts 8 House races toward Dems Freedom Caucus members see openings in leadership MORE (R-Ariz.), has remained quiet on its prospects, but confirmed that talks were ongoing and the language was being tweaked.

Fresh off a major victory on Medicare, the Senate is setting its sights on another bipartisan policy goal: repealing the medical device tax.

The Senate Finance Committee’s health subcommittee will hold a hearing Thursday on the impact of the tax on companies and patients across the country.

Once hailed as a top priority for McConnell, the medical device tax has been largely left on the back burner. Republicans in Congress have instead focused on Medicare reforms and a contingency plan for the looming court case against ObamaCare.

On Tuesday, a Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee will hold a hearing on how telehealth is being used, particularly in rural areas.

 

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