Senate Republicans are once again taking pro-lifers for a ride and expecting to get away with it.
Just months after swearing up and down that the trillion-dollar budget deal agreed to in July was the only way to protect pro-life priorities in the year-end spending fight, Senate Republicans have done nothing to stop that very assault by their Democratic counterparts.
The Senate spending bill on the Department of State and foreign operations, recently reported out of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, both Republicans and Democrats supported the inclusion of language that directly violates the progress President Trump has made on the Mexico City Policy, which prevents U.S. taxpayer dollars from going to foreign organizations that fund or promote abortion overseas.
The language, added by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), is designed to do an end-run around the Trump administration’s ban sending taxpayer money to foreign abortion providers by adding a nearly $60 million increase to U.S.-based groups that fund abortion overseas.
That Senate Republicans would allow this on a voice vote — the type of vote that is not recorded, and usually reserved for non-controversial amendments — is bad enough. But worse, it is a blatant violation of the “handshake agreement” in the budget deal which barred the inclusion of so-called “poison pill” amendments.
While the term “poison pill” was left undefined, it was largely considered to include amendments that were deemed explicitly partisan by one side. Specifically, the deal prohibited higher spending levels for accounts unless “agreed to on a bipartisan basis by the four leaders with the approval of the president.”
Lest there be any doubt, this Shaheen-style increase to abortion funding has already been clearly shown to be partisan. In June, the Democrat-controlled House voted on an amendment by Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ) that would have barred the increases in the Shaheen amendment. Every single House Republican, as well as two House Democrats, voted to restrict the money.
But now, Senate Republicans want to allow it.
And not to stop there, Senate Republicans are apparently also fine with language in the bill’s report prioritizing funding toward “family planning/reproductive health” — phrases long deemed by the pro-life community to be synonymous with abortion.
Both of these provisions are obviously in violation of the budget deal. And any attempt by Senate Republicans to shush the pro-life movement, to tell them “we’ll deal with it in conference” (when the House and Senate reconcile their different versions of the same bill), should be treated as suspect.
Pro-lifers have seen this move before. Indeed, the blatantly bad faith with which Senate Republicans are treating the pro-life movement is egregious, but hardly surprising.
As I wrote a year ago, using the pro-life cause as an excuse to pass bad bills — while not intending to actually address any of their priorities — has become de rigueur for Republicans in power.
And this budget deal is turning out to be no different. Senate leadership pressed pro-lifers that this “handshake agreement” was the only thing standing between them and a total abolition of the abortion protections in law. Keeping abortion restrictions in place, pro-life groups were told, was contingent upon pro-life support of the bill.
Except, once again, it was merely a manipulation for Senate Republicans to get support from the conservative base in the short term, in order to sell them out a few months later.
Pro-lifers have to stop taking these assurances at face value. This is the same set of Republicans that had majorities in the House and Senate for two years, with a Republican in the White House, and managed to accomplish (or even to try to accomplish) approximately nothing on behalf of the pro-life cause. Worse still, they shouted down anyone in their conference who attempted to try.
Love him or hate him, President Trump has done more for the pro-life cause than any other Republican president in history. And rather than supporting him in those efforts, Senate Republicans seem intent to undermine him — and, in a twisted bit of cynicism, to use the pro-life movement as cover to do so.
If the pro-life movement in Washington is to have any lasting impact, it has to start with a hard-earned distrust of the leaders who seem intent on manipulating them, time and time again.
Rachel Bovard spent a decade working for Republicans on Capitol Hill, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) She was also director of policy services at the Heritage Foundation. She currently serves as the senior director of policy at the Conservative Partnership Institute.