Bishops: “Deplore Defeat of Nelson Amendment, Working To Maintain Stupak”

Jodi Jacobson

On Wednesday, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement calling defeat of the Nelson-Hatch-Casey amendment a "grave mistake," and underscoring that they continue to work toward maintainingg Stupak Amendment language in the final bill.

On Wednesday, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement calling defeat of the Nelson-Hatch-Casey amendment a "grave mistake," calling on the House to retain and the Senate to "address" these "flaws," and underscoring that they (the Bishops) will continue to work toward maintaining Stupak Amendment language in the final bill.

The statement is printed in full below: 

“The Senate vote to table the Nelson-Hatch-Casey amendment
is a grave mistake and a serious blow to genuine health care reform,”
said Cardinal Francis George, President of the United States Conference
of Catholic Bishops. “The Senate is ignoring the promise made by
President Obama and the will of the American people in failing to
incorporate longstanding prohibitions on federal funding for abortion
and plans that include abortion.”

Bishop William Murphy, Chair of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic
Justice and Human Development, said: “Congress needs to retain existing
abortion funding restrictions and safeguard conscience protections
because the nation urgently needs health care reform that protects the
life, dignity, conscience and health of all. We will continue to work
with Senators, Representatives and the Administration to achieve reform
which meets these criteria. We hope the Senate will address the
legislation’s fundamental flaw on abortion and remedy its serious
problems related to conscience rights, affordability and treatment of
immigrants.”

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Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Chair of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life
Activities, said: “Congress needs to separate facts and truth from
political rhetoric on abortion funding. Even our opponents claim they
do not support federal funding for elective abortions and they want
current restrictions to apply. The way to settle this often misleading
debate is simply, clearly and explicitly to apply Hyde restrictions to
all the federal funds in the legislation. That is what the House did
and what the final bill must do. The Senate should not approve this
bill in its current form.”

Bishop John Wester, Chair of the bishops’ Committee on Migration,
pointed out: “For many years the bishops have strongly supported
accessible and affordable health care for all. Health care must
protect, not threaten, human life and dignity; respect, not violate,
consciences of providers, taxpayers, and others. We believe universal
coverage should be truly universal, not deny health care to those in
need because of where they come from or when they arrive here. The
Senate proposal falls short in these areas. Immigrants deserve access
to health care for their benefit and the common good of all of society.
We urge Senators to resist amendments that would leave immigrants and
their families behind as the nation reforms health care. We urge
Senators to support amendments that improve health-care access for
immigrants and their families and to oppose efforts that deny them
access.”

Cardinal George concluded: “While we deplore the Senate’s refusal to
adopt the Nelson-Hatch-Casey amendment, we remain hopeful that the
protections overwhelmingly passed by the House will be incorporated
into needed reform legislation. Failure to exclude abortion funding
will turn allies into adversaries and require us and others to oppose
this bill because it abandons both principle and precedent.”

Roundups Politics

The House Freedom Fund Bankrolls Some of Congress’ Most Anti-Choice Candidates

Ally Boguhn

With the 2016 election cycle underway, the political action committee seems to be working tirelessly to ensure the House Freedom Caucus maintains a radical anti-choice legacy.

In its short existence, the House Freedom Caucus (HFC) has made a name for itself through endless efforts to push Congress further to the right, particularly when it comes to reproductive health. Now with the 2016 election cycle underway, the caucus’ political action committee, the House Freedom Fund, seems to be working just as tirelessly to ensure the caucus maintains a radical anti-choice legacy.

Since its founding by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) in January 2015, the group of ultra-conservative lawmakers that make up the caucus has ballooned from just nine members to at least 36 members, as of October 2015, who have confirmed their own inclusion—though the group keeps its official roster secret. These numbers may seem small, but they pack a punch in the House, where they have enough votes to block major legislation pushed by other parts of the Republican party.

And now, the group is seeking to add to its ranks in order to wield even more power in Congress.

“The goal is to grow it by, and I think it’s realistic, to grow it by 20 to 30 members,” Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), one of HFC’s founding members, told Politico in April. “All new members.”

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While the caucus itself reportedly does not endorse candidates, its unofficial PAC has already thrown money behind defending the seats of some of the group’s most notoriously anti-choice members, as well as a few new faces.

According to OpenSecrets.org, the Center for Responsive Politics’ campaign finance database, thus far in 2016, the House Freedom Fund has invested in seven congressional candidates currently vying to keep a seat in the House of Representatives: Rep. Rod Blum (R-IA), Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA), Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), Rep. Scott Desjarlais (R-TN), Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ), and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ). The PAC’s website also highlights two candidates hoping to move from their state legislatures to the House: Republican Indiana state senator Jim Banks and Georgia state Senator Mike Crane. The PAC is also backing the Republican candidate for Florida’s 2nd Congressional District, Mary Thomas; and Republican candidate for North Carolina’s 13th Congressional District, Ted Budd.

Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH), who won a special election in early June to replace former House speaker John Boehner, also received funding from the PAC. He joined the House Freedom Caucus that same week.

The Republican Party actively works to deny access to virtually all forms of reproductive health care, so it is not surprising that the candidates supported by the House Freedom Fund, whose confirmed members are all members of the GOP, share similarly radical views on reproductive rights and health.

Here are some of the House Freedom Fund’s most alarming candidates:

Rep. Rod Blum

Rep. Blum, a freshman congressman from Iowa, considers his opposition to reproductive choice one of the “cornerstones” of his campaign. “It is unconscionable that government would aid in the taking of innocent life. I strongly oppose any federal funding for abortion and I will vote against any of our tax dollars flowing to groups who perform or advocate abortions on demand,” asserts Blum’s campaign site. The Hyde Amendment already bans most federal funding for abortion care.

Blum spent much of his first year in the House attempting to push through a series of anti-choice bills. The representative co-sponsored the medically unsupported Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would have enacted a federal ban on abortion at or beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy, in January 2015. He signed on as a co-sponsor for the failed Life at Conception Act, a so-called personhood measure that would have granted legal rights to fetuses and zygotes, thus potentially outlawing abortion and many forms of contraception, in March of that year. That July, Blum co-sponsored the Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015, which would have stripped the reproductive health organization of all federal funding for one year so that Congress could investigate it in the wake of the Center for Medical Progress’ (CMP) discredited videos smearing the provider. 

Blum’s co-sponsorship of anti-choice legislation was accompanied by a long series of like-minded votes throughout 2015, such as a January vote in favor of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2015, which, among other things, would have made the Hyde Amendment’s annually renewed ban on most federal funding for abortion care permanent. He also voted to block Washington, D.C.’s Reproductive Health non-discrimination law, and in favor of a measure allowing states to exclude from Medicaid funding any health provider that provided abortions, as well as other anti-choice measures.

Blum’s brief time in Congress has been marked by such extremism that Emily’s List, an organization that works to elect pro-choice women, put Blum on their “On Notice” list in July 2015, signaling their intention to prioritize unseating the Iowa Representative. “In less than five months into the 114th Congress, we have seen Representative Blum lead the crusade to restrict women’s access to healthcare, most notably when he cosponsored a national abortion ban,” explained the organization in a press release on its decision to target Blum. “It’s clear that Congressman Blum is more focused on prioritizing an extreme ideological agenda over enacting policies that benefit more women and families in Iowa’s First Congressional District.”

Rep. Dave Brat

Rep. Dave Brat gained notoriety for his win against incumbent representative and then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in 2014, a victory considered one of “the biggest political upset[s] in recent memory.” Like many of his HFC colleagues, Brat has co-sponsored several pieces of anti-choice legislation, including the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act in 2015 and the Conscience Protection Act of 2016, which claimed to “protect” against “governmental discrimination against providers of health services” who refuse to provide abortion care. Brat’s voting record in Congress earned him a 100 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee.

In April of this year, the Virginia representative signed on to a letter with Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and other anti-choice legislators, such as House Freedom Fund candidate Rep. Meadows expressing “serious concerns” about the Food and Drug Administration’s decision to update the label of abortion drug mifepristone to bring it in line with scientific research and evidence-based medicine. Though medication abortions are safe and result in complications in fewer than 0.4 percent of patients, the lawmakers nonetheless claimed that the regulation change could be dangerous, noting that the drug was originally approved during the Clinton administration and demanding a list of information about it.

In the wake of the deadly shooting at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood facility in November, when the alleged shooter parroted the same violent rhetoric about the reproductive health organization popularized by the CMP’s discredited videos, many in Congress called for the panel investigating Planned Parenthood to be disbanded and for lawmakers to distance themselves from the videos. Brat, however, saw no reason the anti-choice violence should affect the conservative crusade to shut down access to reproductive health care. “Principles are principles,” Brat said at the time according to the Huffington Post. “They don’t change on a news cycle.”

Rep. Tim Huelskamp

Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp has been an anti-choice advocate since graduate school, when, according to the biography provided on his website, he was “active in assisting women in crisis pregnancies” while working toward a doctoral degree at American University. His advocacy continued as he made his way to Congress, eventually leading him to become the congressional “Pro-Life Caucus” whip.

Though he has cast plenty of anti-choice votes, the congressman’s most notable moment when it comes to reproductive rights may be a 2012 speech on the House floor, in when he compared abortion to slavery and accused Planned Parenthood and the Obama administration of being racist. “Perhaps the biggest war against our liberties is the war that is being waged against those that are not here today, the unborn,” claimed Huelskamp. “Besides slavery, abortion is the other darkest stain on our nation’s character and this president is looking for every way possible to make abortion more available and more frequent. And he wants you to pay for it. Even if you disagree with it.”

Huelskamp went on to falsely accuse Planned Parenthood of targeting people of color. “I am the adoptive father of four children, each of them either Black, Hispanic, Native American, and I am incensed that this president pays money to an entity that was created for the sole purpose of killing children that look like mine; a racist organization and it continues to target minorities for abortion destruction,” said the congressman. “Shame on this president and shame on that party.”

It wouldn’t be the last time Huelskamp exploited race in order to promote his anti-choice agenda. In 2015, the Kansas Representative lashed out at those who accepted awards from Planned Parenthood, tweeting that they were supporting a “racist” agenda.

Rep. Mark Meadows

Rep. Mark Meadows, who has a 100 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee, co-sponsored anti-choice measures such as the House’s 2015 fetal pain bill, the 2015 Life at Conception Act, and the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2016 (PRENDA). He also once badgered a pregnant doctor testifying during a House committee hearing about the importance of offering maternity coverage through the Affordable Care Act. However, the congressman’s recent vendetta against Planned Parenthood stands out the most.

In July 2015, in the wake of CMP’s deceptively edited videos, Meadows latched onto the discredited films in order to justify defunding Planned Parenthood. “In addition to cutting funding for abortion providers, I strongly urge Congress to investigate the legality of the practices engaged in by Planned Parenthood,” said Meadows at the time.

In September, as Congress faced the looming threat of a possible government shutdown if they didn’t pass a budget bill, Meadows exploited the opportunity to push for Planned Parenthood to be defunded, no matter the cost. With the South Carolina congressman leading the charge, pressure from conservatives to pull funding for the reproductive health-care provider played a role in prompting then-House Speaker John Boehner to resign his position. Meadows was a co-sponsor of the Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015, which passed in the House as part of a compromise to narrowly escape the shutdown. 

But Meadows’ quest to attack Planned Parenthood didn’t end there. In September, the congressman also participated in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s hearing to “examine the use of taxpayer funding” by Planned Parenthood and its affiliates, a sham hearing used by the GOP to repeatedly push misinformation about the organization.

Rep. Scott Desjarlais

Rep. Scott Desjarlais, a medical doctor, is perhaps best known for his attempt to pressure his patient, with whom he was having an affair, into having an abortion when she became pregnant. While the congressman has repeatedly run on his anti-abortion credentials, his divorce papers also revealed he had supported his wife in having two abortions. Politico‘s Chas Sisk labeled DeJarlais  “the biggest hypocrite in Congress.”

Desjarlais made headlines again in 2015 for voting for a later abortion ban. A spokesperson for the Tennessee Republican told the Times Free Press that the vote was in accordance with the congressman’s record:

“Congressman DesJarlais was proud to vote in favor of this legislation,” said his spokesman Robert Jameson, who added that DesJarlais has maintained a “100 percent pro-life voting record” during his five years in Congress and “has always advocated for pro-life values.”

Indiana State Sen. Jim Banks

Indiana state Sen. Jim Banks (R-Columbia City) is one of the few candidates backed by the House Freedom Fund that has yet to win federal office, but his time in the state legislature has given him more than ample opportunity to demonstrate his opposition to reproductive health and rights.

Banks’ campaign website highlights the candidate’s “pro-life” position as a key issue for his race for the House, providing an extensive record of his anti-choice credentials and claiming that he is “running for Congress so that northeast Indiana continues to have a strong voice for innocent lives in Washington, D.C.” That page includes a laundry list of campaign promises, including amending the U.S. Constitution to give a fetus legal human rights, which could outlaw abortion and many forms of contraception; banning federal funding for abortion, though such a ban already exists; eliminating federal funding for any organization that performs abortions domestically or abroad; and opposing any change to the Republican platform on abortion.

The state senator’s site goes on to suggest that “it has been far too long since the Supreme Court discovered that women have a ‘right’ to have an abortion,” lamenting that much of the anti-choice movement’s work to shutter access to abortion in state legislatures hasn’t been replicated on a federal level and promising to address the issue if elected.

Included in his anti-choice resumé is a note that both Banks and his wife have been working in the movement to oppose choice since graduating college, when the two joined Focus on the Family, an organization that has spent millions of dollars promoting its extreme agenda, even devoting $2.5 million to run an anti-abortion ad during the 2010 Super Bowl. The two also worked together on the Allen County Right to Life Board of Directors, and Banks’ wife, Amanda, remains the board’s vice president.

But most extreme of all was the legislation Banks spearheaded while in the state legislature, which included several targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) measures. Most recently the state senator sponsored Indiana’s SB 144, a bill that would modify the state’s 20-week abortion ban to outlaw the procedure once a fetal heartbeat could be detected, typically around six weeks’ gestation. In a statement on the bill, Banks claimed the law was needed because it “would protect unborn Hoosiers’ right to life and also includes important women’s health protections.”

Analysis Politics

Campaign Fact-Check: Ted Cruz Falsely Claims the Affordable Care Act Pushed Single Moms to Part-Time Work

Ally Boguhn

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) falsely blamed the Affordable Care Act for keeping “single moms” in part-time jobs, ignoring his own opposition to policies that could actually help single parents living in poverty.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) falsely blamed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) this week for keeping “single moms” in part-time jobs, ignoring his own opposition to policies that could actually help single parents living in poverty.

Speaking at a campaign rally Monday in Las Vegas, Nevada, ahead of the state’s Republican primary, Cruz suggested that the ACA has worked as a barrier to keep single mothers from working full-time because they are instead forced to work multiple part-time jobs:

You know, the media tries to tell us that the Obama-Clinton economy is the new normal. That stagnation is what we should come to expect. That there’s nothing better. We have the lowest percentage of Americans working today since 1977. Wages have been frozen for 20 years. Median wages today are the same as they are, as they were in 1996. Now that has been driven by illegal immigration that Washington refuses to solve, and that has been driven by economic policies that hammer the living daylights out of small businesses …. Single moms, struggling to feed their kids, working two, three, four part-time jobs because Obamacare doesn’t let them work full-time. Seeing their wages held stagnant, driven down—all of that can turn around. And if we do the two major legislative initiatives I’m campaigning on—if we repeal Obamacare and pass a flat tax—we will see millions and millions of high-paying jobs for people struggling to achieve the American dream.  

But this assessment was utterly wrong. Not only did Cruz get the basic facts about the ACA’s effects on jobs incorrect, he also failed to take into account the policies that could actually help improve the lives of single mothers—many of which he has actively opposed. 

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A January study in policy journal Health Affairs found “little evidence” to support some lawmakers fears that the ACA’s employer mandate, which requires those with more than 50 full-time employees to offer health insurance, would shift many full-time workers to part-time as employers attempted to side-step the law. Although the study found small changes to part-time work among some groups, CNBC reported, this “could not be attributed to the Obamacare employer mandate.”

A September 2015 survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust similarly found that between January and June 2015, the vast majority of employers did not push employees to part-time work or reduce the number of people they hired because of the ACA:

The percentage of firms that offer health benefits to at least some of their employees (57 percent) and the percentage of workers covered at those firms (63 percent) are statistically unchanged from 2014. Relatively small percentages of employers with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees reported switching full-time employees to part time status (4 percent), changing part-time workers to full-time workers (10 percent), reducing the number of full-time employees they intended to hire (5 percent) or increasing waiting periods (2 percent) in response to the law.

This is not the first time Ted Cruz has falsely claimed the ACA pushed people to part-time work. During a January GOP debate, Cruz said that the health-care law “is the biggest job-killer in this country, millions of Americans have lost their jobs, have been forced into part-time work.”

Fact-checkers and media outlets quickly called out the statement as a falsehood. Politifact gave Cruz’s assertion a “pants on fire” designation, writing, “By every measure, millions more people are working and millions fewer are stuck unwillingly in part-time work since the time the Affordable Care Act became law. The law might have affected part-time work for certain kinds of people, but that didn’t change the improvement in the overall numbers.”

There is one thing Cruz was right about, however: Wage stagnation is a huge problem for Americans. But according to economic experts, it isn’t health-care reform or “illegal immigration,” as Cruz suggested, that is primarily at fault.

Instead, the real culprits responsible for wage stagnation, which continues to fuel economic inequality in the United States, are policymakers who have prioritized raising the incomes of the top 1 percent of earners. Lawrence Mishel, Elise Gould, and Josh Bivens explained in a January 2015 report for the Economic Policy Institute that “wages were suppressed by policy choices made on behalf of those with the most income, wealth, and power.”

Among those policy changes listed by Mishel, Gould, and Bivens has been the failure to raise the minimum wage, which they write “had especially adverse effects on women” and people of color.

“Less than half of all workers are women, but they account for 75 percent of workers in the 10 lowest-paid occupations and about 60 percent of minimum wage workers,” explained Laura D’Andrea Tyson, the former head of the Council of Economic Advisers and the National Economic Council, in a 2014 article for the New York Times.

“And most women earning the minimum wage are not teenagers, or wives who can rely on a spouse’s income. About three-quarters of female minimum wage workers are above the age of 20, and about three-quarters of these women are on their own. Many, of course, are working and taking care of children,” Tyson continued.

In other words, many of the single mothers Cruz expresses such concern for would disproportionately benefit from increasing the minimum wage.

Yet Cruz has steadfastly opposed doing so. Speaking at a private donor event in January 2015, the Texas senator claimed that the existence of a minimum wage at all “hurts the most vulnerable.”

Cruz also voted against raising the minimum wage during his time in Congress. In 2014, he voted against the Minimum Wage Fairness Act, and in 2015 he voted against a budget amendment introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), which would have established “a deficit-neutral reserve fund relating to promoting a substantial increase in the minimum wage.”

The worry Cruz showed for single mothers and their children also seems to fall short when it comes to other policies advocates say could make a difference in the lives of that group. Take paid leave, for example, which would provide paid time off to care for a new child or sick family member. Single parents face a greater risk that “caregiving will conflict with work,” according to the Center for American Progress.

A 2015 study of low-income mothers in New York City conducted by the Community Service Society found that, lacking paid family leave, many women with a new child experienced “financial hardships and anxiety about holding on to their jobs, forcing them to return to work quickly, some when their infants were just two or three weeks old.” Many were also forced to leave the workforce altogether because of lack of accommodations and job security.

“Because most of these women quickly exhausted their accumulated sick leave or few vacation days, and because they received no other form of compensation, they soon fell behind in their ability to pay their bills—even if they returned to work only a few weeks after having given birth,” the study found. “When employed, these women had lived very close to the edge, so the absence of a regular paycheck, even for only a short time, was enough to put them over the brink.”

Yet Ted Cruz does not support federal mandates for paid family leave that could help relieve some of the financial pressures parents face that force some out of the workforce altogether. Last September, Cruz told a representative of Make It Work Iowa that while he thinks “maternity leave and paternity leave are wonderful things” that he supports “personally,” he nevertheless doesn’t “think the federal government should be in the business of mandating them.”

Although Cruz may feign concern for “single moms, struggling to feed their kids,” his policy positions show a clear lack of desire to enact changes that would actually help those families.