With yesterday’s hearing on H.R. 3 the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” and several other pieces of legislation that seem aimed at reigniting the culture wars, House Republicans are making clear their agenda to curtail access to reproductive health care for millions of women. As Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of the AP wrote this morning,
“House Republican leaders have made new restrictions on abortion one of their top priorities, pushing a divisive issue to the forefront of the congressional agenda.”
Beth blogged earlier this week about this decidedly not-common-ground bill that would go far beyond the status quo by vastly expanding restrictions on abortion and which could put into question constitutional understandings of government funding.
Proponents of the legislation, like sponsor Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), claim the legislation will codify the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding of abortion services except in the cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the mother. The other stated goal of H.R. 3 is to prevent taxpayer funded allegedly created by the Affordable Care Act, but as we’ve noted many times, and as has been verified by nonpartisan sources, the Affordable Care Act already prohibits federal funding of abortion. In other words, one of H.R. 3′s explicit purposes is to fix a nonexistent problem.
It also dramatically alters the status quo by creating serious financial penalties for individuals whose insurance plans cover abortion services (something the majority of insurance plans currently do, and have done without arousing controversy during pro-choice and pro-life Presidential administrations in the past). H.R. 3 would discontinue all tax subsidies to private health insurance plans that cover abortion, even if abortion coverage is entirely paid for by private funds, and it would impose tax penalties on those that pay for abortion coverage.
There are also some potentially problematic unintended consequences of H.R. 3, which Third Way helpfully lays out in this memo:
In particular, the bill would take the unprecedented step of defining “federal funding” to include the benefit of a tax exemption or other tax expenditure.
This expanded definition presents serious ramifications that could potentially threaten a wide array of other activities currently governed by similar restrictions to the ones that have regulated federal funding for abortion.
For example, numerous religious organizations receive federal funds to run activities such as adoption services, homeless shelters and food banks. These religious organizations are trusted to segregate the federal funds they receive to provide social services from private funds used for religious practice and proselytizing. Churches and religious organizations also receive tax exemptions in order to ensure a separation between church and state as protected by the Constitution. By significantly widening the definition of federal funding to include activities that have an attenuated connection to federal funds, the bill calls into question, politically and perhaps even legally, many other areas like these where separation of funds or other mechanisms have been seen as sufficient to protect private funds from being comingled with federal monies. And by labeling tax exemption as “federal funding,” it could even potentially threaten tax exemptions for churches and other religious institutions by transforming those exemptions into government support for those entities.
The House Republican leadership has unveiled the draconian spending cuts they intend to make in the continuing budget resolution that will soon come up for a vote. Some of these cuts are so appalling that it’s hard to find words to describe them – especially because the Republicans’ (and some Democrats’) professed grave concern over the budget deficit is a transparently false pretense, as evident in their unwavering support for tax cuts for millionaires that make the deficit far, far worse.
Chopping $1.3 billion from community health centers, which provide primary care for 20 million low- and middle-income Americans. This cut would take away health centers’ ability to serve 11 million people. By way of comparison, the tax cuts passed in December give individuals with annual incomes of over $1 million an average tax cut of $100,000.
Completely eliminating funding for Title X ($327 million), which ensures access to contraception for women who would otherwise not be able to afford it. Not only will this very likely result in massive increases in unintended pregnancies, that increase is very likely to lead to an increase in abortions, which the Republican party ostensibly opposes. By way of comparison, the estate tax cuts for multimillion-dollar inheritances passed in December will cost $23 billion.
Elected officials and their consultants are constantly searching for the messages that break through with Americans who don’t follow politics closely. I don’t know if faith leaders’ words about poverty, justice, compassion, the common good, and the least of these will move the needle with focus groups of independent voters. But this budget signals that the Republican leadership (and Democrats who side with them) hold these values in utter contempt, and we have a moral obligation to say so. I am very, very confident that the prophets would have harsh words for political leaders who praise God in one breath and in the next take food off people’s tables and cut off their access to health care (especially while fighting tooth and nail to make millionaires and billionaires richer). It’s morally dishonest, and it’s dead wrong. Let’s call it like we see it.
Yesterday, Greg Sargent highlighted a New York Times piece in which Rep. Peter King revealed that he will not be having law enforcement officials testify on his hearings about the supposed “non-cooperation” of the Muslim community with authorities.
On Fox News this morning, though, King apparently changed his mind:
KING: I will have them on. That is, again, a totally phony charge. What I said in the New York Times is it’s hard to get active law enforcement professionals to come forward and say publicly what they say privately. But I will have law enforcement people testify.
What does appear to be difficult is finding officials willing to testify to the false argument that Muslims don’t cooperate with law enforcement. If all of King’s sources get cold feet when asked to publicly defend their claims, maybe King should re-evaluate their credibility.
The Family Research Council has a pretty bad track record on sticking to the facts, especially when it comes to abortion in health care, so it should come as no surprise that their testimony on H.R.3, the misleadingly named “No-Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” contains glaring errors.
President Obama has urged Americans to find common ground on the controversial issue of abortion. Americans have come together, 67 percent of us, in what may be the only truly bi-partisan agreement possible: That whatever our differences on abortion, we can agree that the federal government should not subsidize it. This is the common ground on abortion in America. H.R. 3 would make that common ground statutory law.
This is preposterous for a number of reasons. First, by definition Common Ground consists of policies that address the root causes of abortion and enjoy broad support from pro-choice and pro-life people alike. Since H.R.3 opens up broad new restrictions on abortion access, including restricting abortion coverage in private plans, it does not have pro-choice support and therefore is not common ground.
Finally, it’s more than a bit rich that FRC is now portraying itself as a champion of common ground given its track record of attacking key planks of the common ground platform, such as improved access to contraception, comprehensive sex education and more governmental support for pregnant women and families.
In another poll*, voters were asked, “Should the federal government provide funding for birth control for low-income women” and 66% of evangelicals agreed. (42 percent strongly agreed compared to 30 percent who disagreed, 21 percent strongly disagreed.)
This is real common ground — commonsense policies supported by supermajorities of the American people that address the root causes of abortion and promote stronger and healthier families. And if FRC were as interested in helping the families they claim to represent as they are in stoking the flames of the culture wars, they would get behind it.
A little-noticed press release on Friday from the House Committee on Homeland Security (chaired by Rep. Peter King) included a big update to King’s upcoming hearings on “radicalization” in the Muslim-American community.
In the “Long-term Outlook” section, the release notes an important change in the description of the hearings:
In March, the Committee will convene the first in a series of hearings examining al Qaeda’s coordinated radicalization and recruitment of people within the American Muslim community.