GOP Tacks Abortion, School Voucher Riders on D.C. Approps Bill
House leadership included funds for school vouchers and restrictions on abortion services but left other social policy riders out of a Washington, D.C., appropriations bill, according to an appropriations cardinal and a spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
The bill that funds the District includes a provision restricting the city from spending federally appropriated and locally collected funds on abortion services, except in cases where the mother’s life is in danger or the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest.
It also includes $60 million for a federally funded, private-school voucher program, a key priority for Boehner.
The bill will be marked up in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government on Thursday.
“Leadership wanted the abortion language and the money for the voucher program,” Subcommittee Chairwoman Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.) said Wednesday.
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel called the provisions “good public policy” and indicated other provisions, such as those restricting gay marriage and gun laws, were left out to ensure the bill had a better chance of passing.
“I assume the White House and the Senate wouldn’t agree to those,” he said.
The bill restricts federal funds from being used for needle exchange or medical marijuana programs, but it would allow the District to spend locally collected funds on such programs.
Emerson said she is happy with the bill and will protect the language against amendments.
But House Democrats are bracing for more riders to pop up later in the process, they said.
Subcommittee ranking member José Serrano said that riders traditionally do not get tacked on in the subcommittee markup but that the inclusion of a few riders in the base bill paves the way for Republican Members to add more later.
“It may not seem that drastic,” the New York Democrat said of the bill Wednesday. “But what do you think is going to happen in full committee once that door is opened? What do you think is going to happen on the House floor?”
D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) released a statement Wednesday thanking Emerson for leaving out other social riders. But in an interview Tuesday, before the bill was released, she said she doesn’t have any reason to think Republicans will stop there.
“We always expect the worst of this House,” the Democrat said. “It would be surprising if somebody didn’t try to make hay by trying in the full committee, or there’s always the floor.”
Norton said she is focusing her efforts to rebuff the proposed abortion policy, or other potential riders, on influencing the Senate and the White House, where she said she has met with several officials to discuss District issues.