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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 CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings Biden-GOP infrastructure talks off to rocky start Moderate GOP senators and Biden clash at start of infrastructure debate 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 WaldenLobbying world Give Republicans the climate credit they deserve Fox hires former GOP lawmaker Greg Walden as political consultant 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 SchumerChuck SchumerThe first Southern state legalizes marijuana — what it means nationally H.R. 1/S. 1: Democrats defend their majorities, not honest elections McCarthy asks FBI, CIA for briefing after two men on terror watchlist stopped at border 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 AlexanderLamar AlexanderSenate GOP faces retirement brain drain The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the National Shooting Sports Foundation - CDC news on gatherings a step toward normality Blunt's retirement deals blow to McConnell inner circle MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySchumer kicks into reelection mode Democrats target Trump methane rule with Congressional Review Act Senators eye rollback of Trump methane rule with Congressional Review Act 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 TrumpHarry Reid reacts to Boehner book excerpt: 'We didn't mince words' Man arrested for allegedly threatening to stab undercover Asian officer in NYC Trump says GOP will take White House in 2024 in prepared speech 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 SmithThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by Facebook — Biden delivers 100 million shots in 58 days, doses to neighbors The eight Republicans who voted to tighten background checks on guns House approves bills tightening background checks on guns 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 BradyDemocrats see political winner in tax fight The Hill's Morning Report - Biden may find zero GOP support for jobs plan GOP seeks new line of attack on Biden economic plans 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 RyanTrump faces test of power with early endorsements Lobbying world Boehner throws support behind Republican who backed Trump impeachment MORE (R-Wis.) told members they are "not going to pass something without Hyde protections,” according to Rep. Phil RoeDavid (Phil) Phillip RoeHouse Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit Illinois Republican elected to serve as next ranking member of House Veterans' Affairs Committee Here are the 17 GOP women newly elected to the House this year MORE (R-Tenn.).

Rep. Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeFlorida Rep. Alcee Hastings dies at 84 Congress looks to rein in Biden's war powers House GOP holdouts muddle Trump vaccine message 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 RoundsMike RoundsCongress looks to rein in Biden's war powers Columbine and the era of the mass shooter, two decades on GOP senator tweets statue of himself holding gun to Biden: 'Come and take it' 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 ThuneSunday shows preview: Democrats eye two-part infrastructure push; Michigan coronavirus cases surge Schumer kicks into reelection mode The Hill's Morning Report - Biden shifts on filibuster 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.