HHS spending bill advances without Hyde Amendment

HHS spending bill advances without Hyde Amendment
© Greg Nash

A key House subcommittee on Monday cleared a spending bill for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) without including a decades-old rider prohibiting funding for abortions, kicking off what is likely to be a long and bruising fight.

For the first time in 40 years, the Hyde Amendment was excluded from the spending bill introduced and then cleared by the House Appropriations labor and health and human services subcommittee.

The HHS bill also does not include the Weldon Amendment, which has been in place since 2005 and prohibits denying federal funding to entities that do not want to cover or provide abortion services.

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The legislation now goes to the full Appropriations Committee for a markup and eventual vote.

The Hyde Amendment bans federal programs such as Medicaid from covering the costs of abortion services. The ban has been added to federal spending bills every year since 1976. 

While it has been the sticking point in health care legislation negotiations, the amendment has also enjoyed bipartisan support as a compromise position between Republicans and Democrats.

Many Democrats argue that the decades-old ban disproportionately impacts low-income women who rely on Medicaid for health care.

Both Democrats and Republicans have supported the Hyde Amendment in annual government spending bills, but vocal opponents have upped the pressure in recent years to lift the ban.

During the campaign, President BidenJoe BidenThe Supreme Court and blind partisanship ended the illusion of independent agencies Missed debt ceiling deadline kicks off high-stakes fight Senate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session MORE reversed his previous longtime support for the measure and pledged to end it after coming under intense pressure from fellow Democrats and advocacy groups. His $6 trillion budget request released in May does not include the amendment. 

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The legislation fulfills a vow made by Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauroRosa DeLauroHouse adjourns for recess without passing bill to extend federal eviction ban House clears .1 billion Capitol security bill, sending to Biden House passes sprawling spending bill ahead of fall shutdown fight MORE (D-Conn.) late last year, who said the status quo is no longer acceptable, and the ban needed to be removed. 

During Monday's markup, DeLauro acknowledged that despite the quick voice vote, the hard work will come at the next step.

"I know this is an issue on which many of us disagree," DeLauro said. "But regardless of the original intent of Hyde, it has disproportionately impacted women of color, and it has ultimately led to more unintended pregnancies and later riskier, and more costly abortions."

"We are finally doing what is right for our mothers, our families, our communities by striking this discriminatory amendment, once and for all," DeLauro added.

But Republicans are ready for a fight, and are expected to try to reinstate the ban in the House during negotiations.

"These protections need to be reinstated for this bill to move forward," said Rep. Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeHere's what Congress is reading at the beach this summer Overnight Health Care: FDA adds new warning to J&J COVID-19 vaccine | WHO chief pushes back on Pfizer booster shot | Fauci defends Biden's support for recommending vaccines 'one on one' HHS spending bill advances without Hyde Amendment MORE (Okla.), the subcommittee's top Republican. "Quite frankly, everyone in this room knows this bill will never pass the United States Senate without their inclusion."

It's unlikely that the legislation could pass the Senate without the Hyde Amendment intact. 

Even if all Democrats support removing the ban, which is unlikely since Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSunday shows preview: Delta concerns prompt CDC mask update; bipartisan infrastructure bill to face challenges in Senate Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire Top Democrat: 'A lot of spin' coming from White House on infrastructure MORE (D-W.Va.) has publicly supported the measure, Democrats don't have enough votes to overcome a filibuster.