GOP Bill Targeting Women’s Health, Contraception In Limbo

July 24, 2012 1:58 a.m.
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House Republicans have sidelined — at least for now — legislation that repeals the Obama administration’s contraception coverage guarantee and makes cuts to funding for women’s health programs. A committee markup initially anticipated for this week won’t happen, nor are GOP leaders certain it will come to the floor at all.

The sweeping bill, which last week passed the Appropriations subcommittee on labor and health, offered a political opportunity for Democrats to hammer away at the GOP’s deep cuts to domestic programs, leaving them upset that the markup is now in limbo.

“I am deeply disappointed that we will not have a public discussion of Chairman Rehberg’s vision for implementing the Romney-Ryan Budget,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), the subcommittee’s top Democrat, in a statement Monday. “This bill was bad for women, bad for children, bad for the most vulnerable among us and bad for middle-class Americans.”“It is shameful that my Republican colleagues are trying to hide their plans to decimate programs that aide children, sick Americans, the unemployed and seniors,” she added.

Appropriations Ranking Member Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA) also called on Republicans to hold the markup, lamenting that “[m]embers will not have the opportunity to offer amendments to repair any of the egregious cuts or remove the litany of riders in the bill.”

Two Democratic Appropriations sources tell TPM they were assured a full committee markup this Wednesday after the subcommittee passage. That’s no longer on tap this week, they say, after Republicans postponed it indefinitely. A GOP aide on the Appropriations Committee, led by Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY), denies it was ever scheduled for this week.

“We have yet to schedule the next mark-up, period. And, the notion that anyone is trying to ‘hide’ anything is absurd,” the aide told TPM, adding that the vote was completely transparent and leaving the door open for a full committee markup at a later date.

The confusion is largely the product of an internal GOP rift over whether to push for spending cuts and new demands on top of last year’s debt limit law that rolled back government programs. Rank-and-file members are determined to raise the stakes but leadership is wary of sparking another government shutdown battle just ahead of the November elections, especially with Senate Republicans on the record urging against it.

If House GOP leaders get their way, the two chambers will agree to a stopgap measure to fund the government per the Budget Control Act beyond Sept. 30. That would negate the need for floor passage of a Labor-HHS bill.

Fueling the uncertainty over the Labor-HHS bill is also discomfort among top Republicans over the political consequences of provisions targeting government programs that help women. This spring’s battle over Obama’s birth control mandate cost the party with female voters, and Democrats have used the Labor-HHS bill to revive claims that Republicans are anti-women.

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