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What Happened on the First Day of the 116th Congress, and Why It Matters

Last night, the first night of the new Congress, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi fired her initial salvo against pro-life policy. The House voted on H.R. 21, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019, to provide funding for the numerous government departments that are currently closed because of the partial government shutdown. But imbedded in that bill was a stark statement of the new Speaker’s principles. It eliminated the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy—an expanded version of the Mexico City Policy that prohibits funding for abortion internationally. Pelosi’s bill appropriates not less than $37.5 million for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which has a history of supporting China’s restrictive child policies, and the bill also requires at least $595m of American taxpayer dollars be spent on international family planning and reproductive health programs.

In short, H.R. 21 would reverse every forward step the Trump administration has taken to protect life in our international commitments and write a blank check to international abortion proponents.

The bill passed by a vote of 241-190, garnering the support of 7 Republicans—Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-08), Rep. Will Hurd (TX-23), Rep. John Katko (NY-24), Rep. Peter King (NY-02), Rep. Elise Stefanik (NY-21), Rep. Fred Upton (MI-06), and Rep. Greg Walden (OR-02).

Following the vote, Rep. Kay Granger (TX- 12) offered a Motion to Recommit (MTR). An MTR returns the underlying bill for further consideration with specific instructions. Rep. Granger’s MTR would have protected women and prenatal children by removing the bill’s language eliminating the Mexico City Policy and funding international abortion advocates. The MTR failed by a vote of 199-232. It regained the seven Republicans that voted in favor of H.R. 21 plus two Democrats—Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL-03) and Rep. Collin Peterson (MN-07).

While this fight was controlled by abortion proponents, a number of courageous Members made statements on the floor about the need for the Mexico City Policy and the need to prohibit American taxpayer dollars from supporting international abortion advocates. They are available here:

It is important to note that this appropriations bill included all existing riders, such as the Hyde, Weldon, and Church Amendments, where applicable. These riders limit the use of taxpayer dollars to fund domestic abortions and protect the conscience rights of individuals and organizations who do not want to be involved in providing abortions.

So, what does it mean? Speaker Pelosi has made it clear that she wants the American taxpayers to fund abortions. This is only the first step in that process. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration, but is unlikely to garner sufficient support. President Trump has also indicated that he will veto the bill due to a lack of appropriations for a border wall. Since H.R. 21 went straight to the floor for consideration, it did not go through committee. This is a large reason why existing riders were kept in place. Keeping the riders in place was also likely an attempt to garner support from moderate Republicans and to put pressure on the Senate and President Trump.

That being said, now is a time for vigilance. The next House appropriations bill will not be clean. It will go through the Appropriations committee where all existing pro-life riders are likely to be stripped out – providing taxpayer funding for abortion and requiring individuals to perform or participate in abortion against their conscience. The two bulwarks against this are the Senate and President Trump. It is of utmost importance that they stand firm in protection of life both internationally and domestically and thwart Speaker Pelosi’s efforts to force every American to be an abortion advocate through the use of their tax dollars.