Differing stances within the Democratic party on the Hyde Amendment, which bans the use of federal funds for most abortions, may derail President Joe Biden’s reconciliation bill.
The bipartisan infrastructure bill and Biden’s Build Back Better agenda have stalled in Congress as Democratic lawmakers spar on various issues. Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have openly balked at the $3.5 trillion price tag for the reconciliation bill and in response, progressives have issued threats to tank the bipartisan bill.
While the price tag is one of the focal points for Manchin and Sinema, it’s not the only issue. Manchin, who has long issued pro-life comments, told the National Review last week that the bill is “dead on arrival” if it doesn’t include the Hyde Amendment.
“We’re not taking the Hyde amendment off. Hyde’s going to be on,” Manchin said. “It has to be. It has to be. That’s dead on arrival if that’s gone.”
Following Manchin’s comments, Democratic Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chairwoman of the Progressive Caucus, told CNN on Sunday that she absolutely would not vote for a bill that includes the amendment. She later noted that it’s “a negotiation” while claiming that most “of the country does not support” the Hyde Amendment.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki also weighed in on the debate when asked where Biden stands on including the amendment in the reconciliation bill. She told reporters Monday that Biden “opposes the Hyde Amendment” and his opinion has “not changed,” though she declined to directly address Manchin’s comments.
Psaki also said she wouldn’t be negotiating on the package from the podium, a comment often heard from the administration amid their efforts to get Democrats united on Biden’s agenda.
Manchin wants the Hyde Amendment in the reconciliation bill. Progressives do not. Where does Biden stand? @PressSec: “I’m not going to negotiate from here, but as you know, the president opposes the Hyde Amendment. That has not changed.”
— Philip Melanchthon Wegmann (@PhilipWegmann) October 4, 2021
“The Hyde Amendment is a red line,” Manchin said later Monday following Psaki’s remarks.
On Hyde Amendment: “The Hyde Amendment is a red line,” he told me
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) October 4, 2021
The White House has not noted how it plans to overcome Manchin’s “red line” stance on the amendment. The administration has so far kept its negotiating tactics close, opting to allow lawmakers to speak for themselves regarding meetings and discussions with Biden. (RELATED: CatholicVote Appeals To Sen. Manchin’s Faith, Calls On Him To Reject Becerra Nomination)
While it’s clear Biden remains steadfastly against the Hyde Amendment – and Manchin for it – what’s unclear is how much the current president is willing to negotiate on the subject. If the president buckles on the Hyde Amendment to get Manchin’s support, other Democratic lawmakers like Jayapal appear ready to step up and oppose the bill.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, for one, expressed concern over the subject, telling CNN on Sunday that he’s seen countless “major pieces of legislation founder on this issue” throughout his Senatorial career.
“I don’t want to say anything now to jeopardize the negotiations, but I hope that we’ll keep in perspective that what we’re trying to do is going to have a positive impact on families and children,” Durbin said. “And we should move toward that goal together. We’ve got to find ways to deal with this issue, honestly, but I hope it is not the decisive issue when it comes to the future of this package.”
Durbin noted that he’s voted both ways in the past and said he doesn’t “want to let the entire package break down” over this issue.
Biden’s stance on the Hyde Amendment is a new one – up until June 2019, the president backed the amendment. Biden issued a surprising flip during his run for president just one day after his campaign reaffirmed his support for the Hyde Amendment.
The president’s reversal followed multiple 2020 Democratic contenders using his original position to go after the current president.
“I can’t justify leaving millions of women without access to the care they need and the ability to … exercise their constitutionally protected right,” Biden said during a Democratic National Committee gala in 2019. “If I believe health care is a right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone’s ZIP code.”
Biden said he would not apologize for his “last position” and slammed Republicans during the speech over health care.
“When, in fact, there is this enormous pressure and even threat to close down clinics that are available in the past for women who do not have the funds, but are able to have them paid for privately as we’ve been able to do, that was one thing. But we now see so many Republican governors denying health care to millions of the most poorest, most vulnerable Americans by refusing even Medicaid expansion,” the then-presidential candidate said at the time.