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Lawmakers Release Omnibus Budget Bill Without Planned Parenthood Language, Several Abortion Riders

The House and Senate Appropriations committees on Wednesday unveiled a $1.15 trillion government spending bill that would not defund Planned Parenthood, CQ News reports (Hallerman/McCrimmon, CQ News, 12/16).

Federal lawmakers are expected to vote on the bills Thursday or Friday (Sherman et al., Politico, 12/15). Meanwhile, as the current short-term continuing resolution is set to expire at midnight, conservative lawmakers on Wednesday also released another short-term continuing resolution that would fund the government through Dec. 22 (Hallerman/McCrimmon, CQ News, 12/16).

Background on Federal Defunding Efforts in Reconciliation and FY 2016 Budget Measures

Earlier this year, Congress passed a stopgap spending bill to keep the government funded through Dec. 11. The bill included 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 (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/3). To make more time for negotiations, Congress on Friday passed a second stopgap measure that funds the government through Dec. 16 (Snell, "PowerPost," Washington Times, 12/11).

Meanwhile, Congressional leaders have been pursuing an alternative budget procedure known as reconciliation. 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. Obama has pledged to veto the bill if it passes through Congress (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/8).

No New Riders, Planned Parenthood Funding Preserved in FY 2016 Budget Bill

According to Politico Pro, the government spending bill does not include language targeting federal funding for Planned Parenthood or family planning programs (Mershon et al., Politico Pro, 12/16).

In addition, the measure does not include some antiabortion-rights riders that were proposed during budget negotiations (McCrimmon, CQ News, 12/16). One provision, included in the House's Labor-HHS-Education budget plan (HR 3020), would have allowed employers to refuse to provide coverage for health care services they say violate their religious beliefs. A related provision would have created 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 have established a new way for health care entities to file a legal challenge in court (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/9).

The omnibus also does not include many of the antiabortion-rights provisions suggested by the conservative House Freedom Caucus (Dumain, CQ News, 12/16).

Earlier this month, the caucus told conservative leaders that it would support an alternative provision in the final spending proposal that permits states to exclude Planned Parenthood from their Medicaid programs. The alternative measure was outlined by the Pro-Life Caucus in a letter to conservative leaders that also suggested two other provisions: One would end funding for the United Nations Population Fund and curb funding for international family planning efforts, while the other would provide additional legal protections for organizations that do not want to cover abortion care and physicians who do not want to provide such services (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/9).

According to Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), the only provision supported by the House Freedom Caucus to be included in the final measure was the one targeting UNPF (Dumain, CQ News, 12/16). The proposed spending measure cuts UNPF funding by 7% (Sullivan, The Hill, 12/16).

Meanwhile, according to CQ News, the measure extends all current antiabortion-rights riders included in prior spending legislation. One of those riders is the Hyde Amendment, which denies coverage of abortion care for low-income women except in instances of rape, incest or life endangerment (Hallerman/McCrimmon, CQ News, 12/16).