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Obama Signs Government Spending Bill Without Planned Parenthood Defunding Language

President Obama on Friday signed a government spending measure that does not include language defunding Planned Parenthood, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The House on Friday voted 316-113 to approve a $1.1 trillion government spending measure (Mascaro, Los Angeles Times, 12/18). The measure was then merged with a $622 billion bill tax package and submitted to the Senate, which passed the combined legislation in a 65-33 vote (Bolton, "Floor Action," The Hill, 12/18).

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. To make more time for negotiations, Congress passed two short-term continuing resolutions, the second of which was scheduled to fund the government through Dec. 22.

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 (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/16). The House is scheduled to vote on the bill on Jan. 6, which would give Obama until Jan. 18 to fulfil his pledge to veto the measure. Conservative lawmakers announced that a vote to override Obama's expected veto is scheduled for Jan. 26, although it is expected to fail (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/17).

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

The government spending bill does not include language targeting federal funding for Planned Parenthood or family planning programs.

In addition, the measure does not include some antiabortion-rights riders that were proposed during budget negotiations. 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.

The omnibus also does not include many of the antiabortion-rights provisions suggested by the conservative House Freedom Caucus. 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.

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 UNFPA. The spending measure cuts UNFPA funding by 7%.

Meanwhile, 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 (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/16).

Conservative Lawmakers To Continue Targeting Planned Parenthood

Conservative lawmakers said they would continue to target Planned Parenthood when Congress reconvenes in 2016, The Hill reports.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said the House would approve the reconciliation budget bill that would defund Planned Parenthood in the first week of January. Meanwhile, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who chairs a special committee tasked with investigating abortion providers and practices, said the panel would schedule hearings next month and conclude its investigation in December 2016.

Separately, according to The Hill, several antiabortion-rights groups said priority legislation for next year will include a measure that would permit employers to refuse to provide coverage for health care services they claim violate their religious beliefs. The language was excluded from the government spending bill (Sullivan, The Hill, 12/18).