WASHINGTON — While Democrats running for president rail against the longtime provision banning federal funding for abortion, members of their own party in the House are preparing to vote for a spending bill that will keep it alive.
Last week, three Democratic members of Congress — Reps. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Barbara Lee of California, and Pramila Jayapal of Washington — introduced a measure to strip the provision, known as the Hyde Amendment, from the funding bill, ensuring abortion coverage for people covered by Medicaid, Medicare, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
“When something is a constitutionally protected right and half of the country requires the ability to make choices about their own body so they can have true economic freedom, we cannot limit federal funds from supporting that constitutional right,” Jayapal said at a press briefing Wednesday.
But even as Democrats in Congress and on the campaign trail have campaigned against Hyde, her measure won’t even get a vote on the House floor. On Tuesday night, the House Rules Committee ruled the provision was “out of order.” The reason, Jayapal said Wednesday, was that it was too broadly written.
House leadership, however, has said simply that they won’t take up the Hyde fight this time around.
“Let me be clear on the Hyde Amendment, I would repeal it tomorrow,” Democratic caucus vice chair Katherine Clark of Massachusetts said at a press briefing Tuesday. “But at this point … we felt that the Hyde Amendment was going to become a focal point that could collapse everything in the [spending] bill.”
The fear for leadership is that they need to pass multiple spending bills through both the House and Senate before the end of September, or the government will shut down again. If the House passes spending bills that get rid of the Hyde Amendment, it’s unlikely the Republican-controlled Senate will support them.
Jayapal, asked Tuesday if she agreed with Clark, said she didn’t know.
“I just know that the amendment was too broad,” she said. “But it doesn’t really matter in some ways. The truth is that we have to do the work to make sure that we can actually overturn it, and whether it goes into an appropriations bill or somewhere else, I think is less the question. The question is how do we really build the movement so that we can repeal Hyde? That is the most important thing.”
Every Democratic presidential candidate has come out against Hyde in recent days, including former vice president Joe Biden, who first said he supported ending Hyde, then said he had misheard the question and did not support ending Hyde, and then later reversed course again, saying he does, in fact, support its abolition.
At the Tuesday briefing, House Democratic Caucus chair Hakeem Jeffries of New York noted that every member of the House and Senate currently running for president has voted in favor of the Hyde Amendment in the past, often when it has similarly been tucked into a much larger bill to keep the government funded.
And some of them, despite their campaign stance, may vote for it again.
Reps. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, Tim Ryan of Ohio, and Eric Swalwell of California, all of whom are currently running for president, told the Washington Post last week that they have not ruled out voting for the spending bill — and thus not ruled out voting for Hyde even as they campaign against it.
And at the briefing Wednesday, Jayapal did not answer questions from BuzzFeed News and another reporter about whether Hyde will keep her or other members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus from voting for the appropriations bill.
Lee, who worked with Pressley and Jayapal on the measure, said in an interview with BuzzFeed News on Tuesday that she did not think it was awkward to vote for Hyde in the upcoming bill.
“We have a lot of different strategies,” she said, pointing to a bill she has introduced, the EACH Woman Act, that would overturn Hyde on its own, among others. “This is not one strategy versus another.”
She added, “It’s not about whether you agree or disagree with abortion, it’s about every woman being on equal footing … We’re going to win this, but it’s going to take more.”
Lee also noted that the spending bill does include a series of pro–abortion rights measures, including rolling back Trump administration policies that restrict health clinics from referring for abortions and not providing foreign aid to groups that offer abortion services.
Katherine Clark’s and Hakeem Jeffries’ names were misspelled in an earlier version of this post.