WASHINGTON – House Democrats moved Monday to block a new Trump administration rule aimed at restricting health care providers from promoting abortions. Democrats included language in a newly released spending bill that would prevent the rule – termed a “gag rule” by critics – from taking effect, although it was already stayed by a federal judge.
Democrats also included $50 million for gun violence research in the legislation released Monday, a massive spending bill for the departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services. The two parties have been fighting over this issue for years, with Republicans using spending bills when they controlled the House to effectively block gun violence research by the Centers for Disease Control.
With both moves, Democrats served notice that they will try to use must-pass spending legislation to promote favored social policies or overturn provisions they oppose now that they control the House. With little legislating of substance expected to occur ahead of the 2020 election, spending bills are one of the few vehicles available on Capitol Hill to accomplish changes in law.
But policy riders included by House Democrats could make it more difficult for spending legislation to pass the Republican-controlled Senate or win support from President Donald Trump, potentially increasing chances for another shutdown when existing government funding expires Oct. 1.
The provision on abortion relates to a rule promulgated in March by the Department of Health and Human Services which would have barred programs that receive federal family planning funds from saying or doing anything to help a patient get an abortion. Groups that receive money under the Title X program, most prominently Planned Parenthood, already were prohibited from using it to perform abortions, but the new rule went further by preventing them from referring a patient for an abortion or otherwise facilitating the procedure.
A federal judge in Washington state issued a nationwide injunction last week, temporarily preventing the rule from taking effect.
“Democrats are standing up for women’s health care,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn. “We are fighting to protect Title X and the millions of patients who get care through this program in this year’s Labor-HHS funding bill.”
The gun violence research would take place via $25 million for the CDC and $25 million for the National Institutes of Health, the first such expenditures in more than two decades during which time federally funded research on gun violence has dried up amid opposition from congressional Republicans and the National Rifle Association.
The provisions related to guns and abortion are part of a mammoth $190 billion spending bill for the three departments and other related agencies – an $11 billion increase in current levels of spending for those departments. It is the first spending bill released this year by House Democrats, and it would fund a massive array of programs from employment training to medical research to early childhood education.
The size and scope of the legislation, as well as the inclusion of liberal policy riders on abortion, guns and other issues, underscores Democrats’ support for a more activist approach to governing than Washington saw during years of GOP control.