Roundup: Enjoy Your Present Now, Stupak Could Grinch You

Robin Marty

It's the night before Christmas, and health care reform has passed. Who was naughty, and was anyone nice? And does Sen. Nelson have buyer's remorse?

Merry Christmas: health care reform has passed. Love it, hate it, or indifferent to it, there is one thing we can all agree on – it is a monumental piece of legislation.
Of course, the question remains, "what now?" TPM answers.

According to Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), Senate health care principals
(including himself) and their counterparts in the House will begin
working with Democratic leaders and White House officials next week to
marry the two chambers’ bills. During that process, they’ll have to be
mindful of just how fragile the coalition in the Senate is, and will
likely make no dramatic changes to the legislation that passed this
morning.

That means the House will face a vote on a final bill that’s likely
to be less progressive in a number of ways than the package they passed
in November. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is already fielding defection threats
from a number of high-profile progressives in her caucus. And given
that the first bill passed by an extremely slim margin, for almost
every "yes" in her caucus who becomes a "no," she’ll have to find a
"no" vote, and turn it into a "yes."

CNN goes into the process with a little more detail, including the fact that Congressman Bart Stupak could still be a Grinch and derail the final passage if he chooses:

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Another sticking point is coverage for abortion. A late compromise
in the House led to the adoption of the Stupak-Pitts amendment, which
bans most abortion coverage from the public option. It would also
prohibit abortion coverage in private policies available in the
exchange to people receiving federal subsidies.

A similar
amendment introduced by Sen. Ben Nelson failed in the Senate. To get
his vote, a compromise was reached that allows states to choose whether
to ban abortion coverage in health plans offered in the insurance
exchanges. Individuals purchasing plans through the exchanges would
have to pay for abortion coverage out of their own money.

As lawmakers work to merge the bills, there will be no other option other than to pick the Nelson compromise, [Norm] Ornstein said.

The
real question is whether or not Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak "tries to
lead an insurgent group of pro-life Democrats away from the bill as a
result of a compromise," he added.

And speaking of Grinches, the Catholic Bishops are still cranky this Christmas Eve.

"Apparently a Senate bill that unleashes unprecedented funding for
abortions is the Senate’s idea of a Christmas gift," said Fr. Pavone. 
"Given that taxpayers oppose public funding of abortion by a
three-to-one margin, perhaps next November Senators will learn just how
offensive their gift is.  Beginning immediately, Priests for Life is
mobilizing voters to put the right to life first in every election."

Sen. Ben Nelson appears to have found some coal in his stocking, as well.  After taking heat from both sides of the abortion debate, he had this to say on Fox News:

I think my colleagues know that we
introduced legislation that is comparable to the Stupak legislation in
the house dealing with barring the use of federal funds for elective abortions. We introduced it
over here. it was bipartisan. it was Hatch — it was Nelson Hatch Casey, and it didn’t pass. So I began the process of
trying to find other solutions that I thought equally walled off the use
of federal funds and made it clear that no federal funds would be used. Now, apparently i didn’t say "mother may I" in the process of writing
that language because others took issue with it, even though they cannot constructively
point out how it doesn’t prohibit the use of federal funds or wall off
those funds or keep them totally segregated. They just didn’t like the
language. well, you know, if in the conference the
stupak-nelson-hatch-casey language passes, i’ll be happy, and
so will congressman stupak and so would, i would imagine, those who
signed on to that legislation. you know, it’s unfortunate, though, to
continue to distort and misrepresent what happens here in the body of
the senate. 

So where is the holiday cheer over this bill? Well, Independent Women’s Forum has a little, although it’s fairly lukewarm.

It’s the season of hope, and of course we can still hope that Members
come to their sense over the holidays and return to scrap the current
frighteningly destructive proposals and start anew with legislation
that would actually make the health care market place more competitive
and help control health care costs. And now, I’ll get back to baking
cookies for Santa Claus…

And on that note, a happy holidays to one and all.  I’ll be back to roundup with you again in 2010!

 

 

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.”

News Abortion

Legal Abortion Care Could Soon End in Oklahoma (Updated)

Nicole Knight Shine

Federal courts have blocked similar Republican-led attempts to ban abortion care in other states. The Supreme Court this year refused to review the North Dakota GOP's ban on abortion care as early as six weeks of pregnancy, as well as Arkansas’ ban on abortion at 12 weeks of pregnancy.

UPDATE, May 20, 5:16 p.m.: Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) on Friday afternoon vetoed the state GOP’s total abortion ban, according to a report from CNN

An unprecedented measure to make providing abortion care a felony punishable by up to three years in prison now awaits the signature of Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R).

The GOP-backed SB 1552 outlaws abortions except to save the patient’s life. Physicians who perform abortions in other cases will lose their medical licenses and would be unable to obtain or renew a license.

The bill’s backer, Sen. Nathan Dahm (R-Broken Arrow), reportedly said he hoped the legislation might spur an overturn of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

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The governor has five days to sign the measure before it automatically becomes law, according to reports. Her representative told the Associated Press on Thursday that Fallin is withholding comment until her staff has time to review the anti-choice legislation.

With no discussion or debate, the state’s Republican-dominated state senate on Thursday voted for the bill 33-12, as the Associated Press reported, with a handful of Republicans joining Democrats in opposition.

State Sen. Ervin Yen (R-Oklahoma City), the only physician in the chamber, described the abortion ban as “insane” and voted against it.

Officials from the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) and the state medical association called the legislation, the first of its kind, unconstitutional.

Amanda Allen, the center’s senior state legislative counsel, called on the Oklahoma governor in a statement to “reject this cruel and unconstitutional ban.”

Fallin’s signature on the measure could set up an expensive legal fight.

CRR officials have challenged what it described as unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care in Oklahoma eight times in five years, according to a statement released Thursday. Those restrictions include measures to impose a forced 72-hour delay before a person can receive abortion care, and to outlaw the most common method of second-trimester abortion.

Federal courts have blocked similar Republican-led attempts to ban abortion care in other states. The Supreme Court this year refused to review the North Dakota GOP’s ban on abortion care as early as six weeks of pregnancy, as well as Arkansas’ ban on abortion at 12 weeks of pregnancy.