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 CollinsTexas senator introduces bill to produce coin honoring Bushes GOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats On unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 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 WaldenDems ready aggressive response to Trump emergency order, as GOP splinters Former Ryan aide moves to K street Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Lawmakers pay tribute to John Dingell's legacy on health care | White House denies officials are sabotaging ObamaCare | FDA wants meeting with Juul, Altria execs on youth vaping 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 Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats National emergency declaration — a legal fight Trump is likely to win House Judiciary Dems seek answers over Trump's national emergency declaration 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 AlexanderDems ready aggressive response to Trump emergency order, as GOP splinters Congress must move forward on measure dealing with fentanyl GOP advances rules change to speed up confirmation of Trump nominees MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — Dems blast rulemaking on family planning program | Facebook may remove anti-vaccine content | Medicare proposes coverage for new cancer treatment Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Senators seek answers on surprise medical bills | Red states move to limit Medicaid expansion | Two drug companies agree to testify Senate Dems block Sasse measure meant to respond to Virginia bill 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 TrumpTrump nominates Jeffrey Rosen to replace Rosenstein at DOJ McCabe says ‘it’s possible’ Trump is a Russian asset McCabe: Trump ‘undermining the role of law enforcement’ 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 SmithHouse Dems release 2020 GOP 'retirements to watch' for Dems escalate gun fight a year after Parkland House panel advances bill to expand background checks for gun sales 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 BradySmaller tax refunds put GOP on defensive Key author of GOP tax law joins Ernst and Young Lawmakers beat lobbyists at charity hockey game 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 RyanThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Sanders set to shake up 2020 race McCabe: No one in 'Gang of Eight' objected to FBI probe into Trump Unscripted Trump keeps audience guessing in Rose Garden MORE (R-Wis.) told members they are "not going to pass something without Hyde protections,” according to Rep. Phil RoeDavid (Phil) Phillip RoeThe Hill's 12:30 Report: State of the Union takeaways | Sights and sounds from the night | Virginia attorney general admits he wore blackface Activist who met with GOP lawmakers also promotes ‘black violence’ gene: report GOP lawmaker to be challenged by Dem he delivered as a newborn MORE (R-Tenn.).

Rep. Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeGOP dismisses polls showing losing battle on shutdown Bottom Line Dems hit GOP on health care with additional ObamaCare lawsuit vote 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 RoundsGOP senator: Trump thinks funding deal is 'thin gruel' Lawmakers put Pentagon's cyber in their sights Endorsing Trump isn’t the easiest decision for some Republicans 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 ThunePolls: Hiking estate tax less popular than taxing mega wealth, income Will Trump sign the border deal? Here's what we know Key GOP senator pitches Trump: Funding deal a 'down payment' on wall 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.