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 CollinsGOP seeks to change narrative in shutdown fight Trump pitches new plan to reopen government amid Dem pushback The Memo: Concern over shutdown grows in Trump World 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 WaldenHillicon Valley: Republicans demand answers from mobile carriers on data practices | Top carriers to stop selling location data | DOJ probing Huawei | T-Mobile execs stayed at Trump hotel as merger awaited approval House Republicans question mobile carriers on data practices On The Money: Trump says he won't declare emergency 'so fast' | Shutdown poised to become longest in history | Congress approves back pay for workers | More federal unions sue over shutdown 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 SchumerCongress: Americans in Puerto Rico still need our help Airbnb is doing the Democrats' dirty work Protecting our judiciary must be a priority in the 116th 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 AlexanderGrassley to test GOP on lowering drug prices McConnell blocks House bill to reopen government for second time Senators restart shutdown talks — and quickly hit roadblocks MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySen. Murray says Washington behavior reminds her of former preschool students Senate rejects government-wide ban on abortion funding Overnight Health Care: Dem chair plans hearing on Medicare for all | Senate GOP talks drug prices with Trump health chief | PhRMA CEO hopeful Trump reverses course on controversial pricing proposal 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 TrumpCoast Guard chief: 'Unacceptable' that service members must rely on food pantries, donations amid shutdown Dem lawmaker apologizes after saying it's never been legal in US to force people to work for free Grassley to hold drug pricing hearing 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 SmithLatest funding bill to reopen the government fails in House On The Money: Trump says he won't declare emergency 'so fast' | Shutdown poised to become longest in history | Congress approves back pay for workers | More federal unions sue over shutdown Overnight Energy: House votes to reopen Interior, EPA | Dems question EPA over Wheeler confirmation prep | Virginia Dem backs Green New Deal 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 BradyTexas governor, top lawmakers tell Trump not to use hurricane relief funds to build border wall Trump on declaring national emergency: 'Not going to do it so fast' Dems look to chip away at Trump tax reform law 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 RyanAs new Congress begins, federal-state connections are as important as ever Trump once asked Paul Ryan why he couldn’t be ‘loyal': book AEI names Robert Doar as new president MORE (R-Wis.) told members they are "not going to pass something without Hyde protections,” according to Rep. Phil RoeDavid (Phil) Phillip RoeActivist who met with GOP lawmakers also promotes ‘black violence’ gene: report GOP lawmaker to be challenged by Dem he delivered as a newborn After 30 years, it’s time to rethink VA’s Cabinet department status MORE (R-Tenn.).

Rep. Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeBottom Line Dems hit GOP on health care with additional ObamaCare lawsuit vote Overnight Health Care: House files motion to defend ObamaCare in lawsuit | Trump Medicaid director leaving after three months 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 RoundsGrassley to test GOP on lowering drug prices Trump tells GOP senators he’s sticking to Syria and Afghanistan pullout  Senators look for possible way to end shutdown 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 ThuneRove warns Senate GOP: Don't put only focus on base Leaders nix recess with no shutdown deal in sight Senate advances measure bucking Trump on Russia sanctions 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.