Conservatives want to restrict abortion so much they’ll endanger their own health care bill

Senate Republicans are caught between a rock and a hard place.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., flanked by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., left, and Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, speaks at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, June 6, 2017. CREDIT: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., flanked by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., left, and Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, speaks at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, June 6, 2017. CREDIT: AP/J. Scott Applewhite

Senate Republicans are caught between a rock and a hard place. If they decide to include anti-abortion language in their health care bill, it may be struck down, but if they take it out, anti-choice groups will oppose their bill. Conservatives’ intense desire to limit people’s access to abortion may undermine the success of — or completely set back — their own health care bill.

The Senate parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, who interprets Senate rules, told Republicans that a provision that stops people from using refundable tax credits for private insurance covering abortion may not be allowed, according to the Hill.

Republicans decided to push this legislation through using budget reconciliation, so they wouldn’t need any Democratic votes, but anti-abortion language does not fall under budgetary changes. This means they would be in violation of the Byrd Rule, which says that a bill’s language can’t be more about policy matters than how much money is being spent.

But if Republicans fail to include the language, influential anti-choice groups will oppose the repeal-and-replace bill they’ve worked months on and spent the majority of the Obama administration vowing to pass. Anti-choice groups, such as the Susan B Anthony List and Family Research Council, have pressured Senators to include prohibitions on abortion coverage and funding of Planned Parenthood in the health care bill, or they will oppose it. Some Republican Senate leaders similarly say that the bill can’t stray too far from the caucus’ stance on abortion, according to Politico.

Some Republicans are content to ignore the parliamentarian’s warning that the language will not be allowed. Sen. John Thune (R-SD) told Politico, “There’s still not a clear ruling from the parliamentarian about the House Hyde language… I don’t think we go to contingencies or Plan Bs until we know that.”

“No taxpayer funding is consistent with the majority of our caucus,” Thune added.

David Christensen, vice president of government affairs at Family Research Council, a far-right conservative group, told the Hill, “If the Byrd Rule were to be an obstacle to ensuring the GOP replacement plan in the Senate does not subsidize abortion, that’s something that would be a serious problem for us and the pro-life community.”

Orrin Hatch said he believed that a bill without anti-choice language could possibly doom the bill. Republicans are looking for workarounds that could allow them to restrict abortion coverage and still make it through budget reconciliation.