September 30, 2011 — On Thursday, Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee released a fiscal year 2012 draft spending bill for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education that seeks to delay implementation of the health care reform law (PL 111-148), block federal funding to Planned Parenthood affiliates and eliminate the Title X family planning program, CQ Today reports. The bill also would prohibit abortion coverage in health plans sold through the health insurance exchanges that will be established under the reform law.
The bill -- written by Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies -- would prohibit HHS from continuing implementation of the health reform law until 90 days after all legal challenges to it conclude (Ethridge, CQ Today, 9/29). The provision would stand little chance in the Democrat-controlled Senate but is instead "intended to be a marker in negotiations," according to National Journal (McCarthy, National Journal, 9/29). Moreover, the bill "isn't likely to see a markup anytime soon," as at least two Republicans on the committee believe its $153 billion in total spending is too high. Reps. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) want the bill within the $139 billion allotted in the House-passed budget resolution (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 9/29).
Democrats accused Republicans of wasting time on a plan that has little to no chance of passing the Senate (Wolfgang, Washington Times, 9/29). Posting a bill without scheduling a markup is not productive, they said.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), ranking Democrat on the Labor-HHS Subcommittee, said she is "very concerned" that there are no plans to mark up the legislation, adding that posting a proposal "is by no means an acceptable substitute for public debate and amendment" (National Journal, 9/29). DeLauro continued that the "draft injects a whole host of new, contentious legislative issues into the process -- most of them quite extraneous to the task at hand of setting funding levels for federal agencies and programs for the upcoming fiscal year." She added, "It looks like we're in for a long, difficult process" (Wasson, "On The Money," The Hill, 9/29).
DeLauro also decried the provisions to bar funding to Planned Parenthood and eliminate the Title X program. The program funds contraceptive services, cancer screenings and other preventive care for low-income women. By law, the money cannot be used for abortion services.
"The main effect would probably be to prohibit Medicaid patients from choosing to receive services such as contraception and cancer screenings from Planned Parenthood clinics," she said (CQ Today, 9/29).