GOP-Led House Approves Abortion Coverage-Limiting Bill

May 4, 2011 1:22 p.m.

The House of Representatives just passed H.R. 3, the controversial abortion-funding law that pro-choice critics and the White House has said will make it harder for woman to pay for abortion coverage with their own money.

The passage was expected, considering 227 members signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation. The final vote was 251-175. Sixteen Democrats and 235 Republicans voted aye. The full rollcall vote is here.

It’s not likely the bill will move along much further past the House. Democrats control the Senate and the Obama administration has promised to veto the bill if it ever land on the president’s desk.Proponents say the bill will simply make permanent existing bans on using federal money to pay for abortions. But critics say the bill goes much further than existing law, and say it reopens the abortion fight that’s been in detente for years thanks to the Hyde Amendment.

The bill would end tax credits for businesses that provide health insurance benefits if the insurance covers abortions, which Democrats say is both a new encroachment on the rights of private citizens to spend their own money and a huge tax increase.

Earlier on Wednesday, the bill’s author, anti-abortion icon Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), told reporters even he understands there’s a tough road ahead for his legislation, though he said that Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) will be working to get a vote for the legislation in the Senate.

Even if the bill doesn’t make it to a Senate vote, it may have already succeeded in doing its job politically. By making a sweeping abortion restriction the third bill on the House agenda, Republicans were able to dissuade social conservatives worried that the tea party-powered 112th Congress might put their issues on the back burner.

At the same time, Democrats have been able to use the legislation to fire up their base. DCCC chair Steve Israel (D-NY) told reporters back in February that H.R. 3 and other abortion legislation under consideration by House Republicans has left the new majority vulnerable to the suggestion that jobs and the economy are not their top priority.

At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) kept to the argument that the Republicans are letting down their new tea party base shortly before the vote proceeded to the House floor.

Schakowsky assailed Republicans for running counter to conservative philosophy in their support for H.R. 3, saying “These are the same people who believe in small government, they don’t want big brother.”

“They want to shrink government just to the size so it could fit into your bedroom.”

Igor Bobic contributed reporting.

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