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Doomed for Failure

August 6, 2021
Weekly Columns

Before the U.S. House of Representatives concluded legislative session and entered the customary district work period scheduled during the month of August, House Democrats pushed through several misguided bills connected to annual funding of the federal government. Passed along party lines, these unworkable bills are doomed for failure in the Senate and will never reach the president’s desk as written. And that is because Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee removed numerous longstanding bipartisan provisions dealing with important policy matters. Further, they added many highly-controversial and political new provisions to these bills. Such extreme, one-sided legislating is doomed for conflict and delay.

While the bills reported by the House Appropriations Committee are typically supported by the party in control, there is traditionally room for bipartisan negotiation and agreement as the process of funding the government advances into conference discussions between the two chambers. Although the Senate has not yet acted on as many funding bills for fiscal year 2022, the state of the House-passed legislation, nine of the 12 annual bills, reflects a deeply partisan starting position that will require major changes in order for Republicans to even agree to participating in a negotiation. And to be clear, Democrats do not have the majorities necessary to get legislation to the president’s desk without Republican votes.

Although there are certainly items and priorities that I support in the annual appropriations bills passed in the House so far, each piece of legislation was based on a flawed premise that does not reflect the funding needs of our country and the views of the American people. Such misguided errors include severely underfunding defense, overfunding domestic programs and removing longstanding, bipartisan language that saves lives and protects the conscience rights of all Americans.

At a time when Russia and China are bolstering and growing their militaries and becoming a more apparent threat and the Taliban reasserts control in Afghanistan, Democrats shortchanged federal funding to support America’s own national defense and favored bloated and unreasonable funding for social programs. In bloating the domestic side of America’s annual budget, Democrats alarmingly prioritized Green New Deal-like programs that would further endanger our economy and dangerously pave the way for a more socialist society, which is un-American.

Beyond their misguided priorities for funding, Democrats removed decades-old language that has always received bipartisan support and ensured the conscience rights of all Americans are protected. I am deeply disappointed by Democrats’ decision to remove the longstanding and traditionally bipartisan Hyde and Weldon amendments. Since 1976, the Hyde Amendment has prevented federal tax dollars from funding abortions and has been included in appropriations bills every year since then with bipartisan, bicameral support. First authored in 2005 and included in annual appropriations every year since then, the Weldon Amendment protects American doctors, nurses and other health care professionals from participating in or providing an abortion if they have a moral objection.

Unless these and other key pro-life protections are restored and bipartisan agreement is struck on funding levels, Republicans cannot come to the table or vote on final appropriations. Democrats had the opportunity to change course and restore the Hyde and Weldon amendments – first when I offered an amendment to do so in a House Appropriations Committee bill markup, second when I filed an amendment with unanimous Republican support during Rules Committee consideration and then again on the House floor. Sadly, they chose to block every single effort to restore decades of bipartisan precedent and support the will of the majority of Americans.

The reality is that Democrats chose to pick a fight, even though they do not have the votes needed to advance funding bills to the president’s desk on their own. At the end of the day, if Democrats continue to refuse to compromise and fail to work with Republicans, in either chamber, then they will have only themselves to blame. And they will bear the responsibility for the inevitable consequences: a continuing resolution, or even worse, a government shutdown. The American people deserve better.