Backing Away from Pelosi, White House Says Birth Control Funding in Stimulus Bill Was Not Obama's Idea

By Fred Lucas | January 26, 2009 | 4:41 PM EST

( - The Obama White House on Monday backed away from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s support for increased federal funding of contraception in the $825-billion stimulus bill now under consideration by Congress.
That was not President Obama’s idea, a White House spokesman told
“The principles of what he thought should be in the package--that wasn’t part of that,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton told “They’re working on what the final bill should look like.”
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) was among the first to criticize the Democratic plan, specifically the provisions funding contraception.
The provision in the draft legislation would expand federal funding for contraception through Medicaid, allowing those not poor enough to be currently eligible for Medicaid to nonetheless qualify for the contraception aid.
A program created during the Clinton administration allows states to seek a waiver to offer Medicaid “family planning” services to those who are otherwise not qualified for Medicaid.  When states get a waiver, the federal government matches state Medicaid family planning funds with $9 in federal money for every $1 the state spends.
Under the provision in the stimulus package supported by Speaker Pelosi, states would no longer need to apply for a waiver.  All 50 states would be given 9-1 federal matching funds for their Medicaid-funded contraceptives.
Pelosi defended the funding during an interview Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”
“We also heard from Congressman Boehner coming out of the meeting today that again a lot of that spending doesn’t even meet the same test you just talked about right now,” Stephanopoulos said. “Hundreds of millions of dollars to expand family planning services. How is that stimulus?”
“Well, the family planning services reduce cost.  They reduce cost,” Pelosi responded. “The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children’s health, education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs.  One of those--one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government.”
“So no apologies for that?” Stephanopoulos asked.
“No apologies.  No,” the speaker responded. “We have to deal with the consequences of the downturn in our economy.  Food stamps, unemployment insurance, some of the initiatives you just mentioned.  What the economists have told us from right to left.  There is more bang for the buck, a term they use, by investing in food stamps and in unemployment insurance than in any tax cut.”

Obama will be meeting with House and Senate Republican leaders on Capitol Hill Tuesday at noon, in what White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said is a serious attempt to get ideas from the opposing party.

Obama has consistently said he wants his stimulus bill to pass with bi-partisan support. However, many Republicans--including his rival in the presidential race, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), said they would vote against the bill in its current form.