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Appropriations Rider Would Block D.C. Abortion Funding

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo

The District of Columbia will not be able to provide locally or federally funded abortions through fiscal 2012 if a policy rider currently included in House Republicans’ appropriations package goes through.

DC Vote, an organization that lobbies for expanded D.C. autonomy, is already moving to protest the rider. The group plans to draw allies, including local officials, to rally on Capitol Hill on Friday morning to urge lawmakers to remove the provision and to vote against any spending bill that contains the language.

“DC Vote urges everyone who is sick and tired of Congressional interference to attend,” wrote the group in a release announcing the rally, describing the rider as an infringement on home rule.

Other spending bills passed by Congress, including April’s short-term spending measure, have included such riders. Hundreds protested and dozens were arrested, including city councilmembers and Mayor Vincent Gray.

The omnibus spending bill unveiled very early this morning would also include funding for Speaker John Boehner’s school voucher program for D.C., which Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) opposes. Holmes Norton said the measure, which was also part of April’s bill, is not supported by the majority of D.C. residents.

The nine-bill appropriations package released today reflects a compromise between House and Senate appropriators, according to House GOP leadership. But House Democrats maintained that they have not yet studied the package and were suggesting as late as Wednesday night that they were still grappling with the abortion provision.

Still, Rep. José Serrano (N.Y.), top Democrat on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government that has jurisdiction over the D.C. budget, told Roll Call on today that he believed discussions to strip the abortion rider were now “off the table.”

Though she cannot cast a vote on any legislation on the House floor, Holmes Norton plans to propose an amendment to the omnibus that would remove the abortion rider from the bill.

“We will never let the refusal to observe the principles of democracy here pass without a fight. It is outrageous enough to pay taxes without representation in the national government,” said Norton in a statement. “When Congress compounds the injury by confiscating the District’s own funding judgments, do not expect us to go quietly into the night.”

But with the threat of a government shutdown looming, Republican leaders will likely want to expedite the process by bringing the bill to the floor without allowing consideration of any amendments.

Members could still withhold votes on the spending bill to make a statement against the language. Democratic Reps. Jan Schakowsky (Ill.) and Emanuel Cleaver (Mo.), told Roll Call on Wednesday evening that the provision would make them pause before casting a “yes” vote.

But others said it would be hard to withhold votes because of a single issue when funding the entire government is at stake.

“You’ve got to be realistic,” said Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), who does not support the policy rider. “If it’s already law [in the last spending bill], I doubt that it’s something that you would want to shut down the government over.”

Daniel Newhauser contributed to this story.

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