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House Republicans Abuse Appropriations Process to Push Ideological Agenda

The Committee on Appropriations in the House of Representatives released its draft of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) spending bill for Fiscal Year 2013 on July 17, 2012.  This legislation, which House Republicans drafted without allowing input from the other side of the aisle, passed out of subcommittee on a largely party-line vote, with all Democrats voting against it.[1]  The bill decimates funding for teen pregnancy prevention and women’s health, while increasing funding for ineffective abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.   
 
The draft Labor-HHS bill slashes funding for the President’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative by $85 million, leaving only $20 million for the program.  Despite Republican claims that government spending must be reduced, the bill also quadruples funding for the Community Abstinence Education grant program, raising it from $5 million to $20 million.  Programs funded by these grants must adhere to the strict eight-point definition of “abstinence education” in Title V, Section 510 of the Social Security Act. As such, these programs must exclusively teach the “social, psychological, and health gains to be realized by abstaining from sexual activity” and that “abstinence from sexual activity outside marriage [is] the expected standard for all school age children.”[2]  The legislation also attacks women’s health care.  The Title X family planning program, which provides vital health services to over 5 million women each year, was eliminated.[3]
 
The Republican-authored bill also contains numerous policy riders—tools employed by legislators to exploit the appropriations process to enact ideologically driven laws that eliminate or place restrictions on funding for programs they find objectionable—attacking health care in general and women’s health in particular.  One of the riders prevents Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its affiliates from receiving any federal dollars unless the organization stops performing abortions.[4]   It also prohibits the “use of funds to enforce requirements of [health care reform] for health plans to cover particular services (such as contraception) if the sponsor objects on grounds of religious beliefs or moral convictions.”[5]  Another policy rider prevents any use of funds for implementation of health care reform, which represents House Republicans’ 34th attempt to destroy this vital legislation in the 112th Congress.
 
House Democrats decried the House Republicans’ bill and the devastating effects it would have on health in the United States.  Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, characterized the bill as “bad for women, bad for children, bad for the most vulnerable among us and bad for middle-class Americans.”[6]  Another Democrat on the subcommittee, Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), said that it is “unacceptable that House Republicans continue to go out of their way to deny women basic healthcare.”[7]  Congressman Norm Dicks (D-WA), the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Committee, criticized his Republican counterparts for making “no effort to work with our side of the aisle to accommodate any of our concerns,” and labeled the legislation “the most partisan” appropriations bill of the year.[8]
 
While early reports indicated that the bill would likely come before the full Appropriations Committee before the end of July, it now appears unlikely that the legislation will be considered before the end of the calendar year.[9]  On July 31, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) announced that they had reached an agreement to fund the government under a continuing resolution from the beginning of the 2013 Fiscal Year—October 1, 2012—through March 31, 2013.[10]  The continuing resolution will continue funding the government at Fiscal Year 2012 levels and will be free of policy riders, according to Majority Leader Reid.[11]  Congress did not vote on the measure before adjourning for the August recess.    
 
 

[1]House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations—Democrats, “Norm Dicks Statement on the Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations bill, FY13,” Press Release published 17 July 2012, accessed 25 July 2012, <http://democrats.appropriations.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=
bill-fy13-&catid=247:press-releases&Itemid=4>; Erik Wasson, “Controversial labor, health bill clears House subcommittee,” The Hill (18 July 2012), accessed 27 July 2012, <http://thehill.com/blogs/on-the-
[2]Social Security Act , 42 U.S.C. §§ 710(b)(2)(A)–(B) (2010), accessed 17 January 2012,
[3]Planned Parenthood Federation of America, “Planned Parenthood Condemns Unprecedented Suite of Attacks on Women’s Health,” News Release published 17 July 2012, accessed 25 July 2012, <http://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/newsroom/press-releases/planned-
[4]“Norm Dicks Statement on the Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations bill, FY13,” ibid.
[5]Ibid. 
[6] Sahil Kapur, “GOP Bill Targeting Women’s Health, Contraception In Limbo,” Talking Points Memo (24 July 2012), accessed 25 July 2012, <http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/07/gop-
[7]Sahil Kapur, “House Republicans Revive The Contraception Wars,” Talking Points Memo (19 July 2012), accessed 25 July 2012, <http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/07/house-gop-
[8] “Norm Dicks Statement on the Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations bill, FY13,” ibid.
[9] “GOP Bill Targeting Women’s Health, Contraception In Limbo,” ibid.
[10]Erik Wasson, “Reid, Boehner announce deal to avoid government shutdown,” The Hill (31 July 2012), accessed 9 August 2012, <http://thehill.com/blogs/on-the-money/appropriations/241277-
[11]Ibid.

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