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Lawmakers Continue Debate Over Omnibus Spending Bill Riders, Including Abortion-Related Provisions

Lawmakers Continue Debate Over Omnibus Spending Bill Riders, Including Abortion-Related Provisions

December 11, 2015 — Congressional leaders on Thursday said they expect the text of the omnibus government spending bill to be released on Monday, which would help set up a final vote on the measure on Wednesday, Dec. 16, The Hill reports (Bolton, The Hill, 12/10).

Amid ongoing debate over several policy riders for the omnibus bill, the Senate on Thursday passed a short-term continuing resolution (HJ Res 75) that would keep the government funded through Wednesday. The House is expected to approve the legislation on Friday (McCrimmon/Hallerman, CQ News, 12/10). White House press secretary Josh Earnest said President Obama would sign a short-term continuing resolution.

Background on Spending Bill, Planned Parenthood Defunding Efforts

Earlier this year, Congress passed a stopgap spending bill to keep the government funded through Dec. 11. The bill includes funding for Planned Parenthood. When the bill was debated, some conservatives said they would not support any government spending measure that includes funding for the organization.

Meanwhile, the Senate on Dec. 4 voted 52-47 to pass a budget reconciliation bill (HR 3762) that would defund Planned Parenthood and repeal several of the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) provisions. Through budget reconciliation, certain legislation can advance in the Senate with a simple majority vote.

The part of the reconciliation measure that targets Planned Parenthood would end federal funding for the organization for one year. According to the Congressional Budget Office, that amounts to about $390 million in Medicaid funding. Meanwhile, the measure would add $235 million in funding for community health centers.

The House, which approved a different version of the bill in October, is expected to pass the Senate version next week. Obama has pledged to veto the bill if it passes through Congress (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/9).

Debate Continues on Abortion Riders as Lawmakers Tee Up Wednesday Vote

On Thursday, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said, "I understand the current projection is for the House to post the omnibus Monday and vote on it by Wednesday," adding, "The goal is to wrap things up by Wednesday evening" (The Hill, 12/10).

According to AP/Sacramento Bee, conservative lawmakers will not include language in the measure repealing the ACA or defunding Planned Parenthood (AP/Sacramento Bee, 12/10).

However, lawmakers still are debating several dozen policy riders (CQ News, 12/10). One provision, included in the House's Labor-HHS-Education budget plan (HR 3020), would allow employers to refuse to provide coverage for health care services they say violate their religious beliefs. A related provision would create a new path for a broad list of health care entities, including hospitals, insurance plans and health care providers to file a legal challenge against state or local government if they are penalized for refusing to provide access to abortion care.

Previous appropriations measures have included language that bars the government from discriminating against health care entities that refuse to provide abortion care or provide referrals to abortion care. However, the proposed language would establish a new way for health care entities to file a legal challenge in court (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/9).