(CNSNews.com) - The Republican-controlled Congress is moving to enact a Defense appropriations bill that has morphed into a multi-agency "minibus" and continuing resolution that funds Planned Parenthood and research that uses fetal tissue taken from aborted babies.
The bill passed the Senate Tuesday and is expected to come up for a vote in the House next week.
The bill is based on H.R. 6157, which started as the stand-alone Defense Department appropriations bill that the House passed on June 28.
But in a floor speech on Aug. 16, Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby explained that the Senate version of H.R. 6157 “marries” Congress’s two biggest spending bills.
“Today the Senate begins debate on an appropriations package that is absolutely essential to the strength and security of this nation,” Shelby said.
“The package before the Senate,” he said, “marries the two largest fiscal year 2019 appropriations bills: Defense and Labor-HHS-Education. Each of these bills carries the near unanimous support of the Appropriations Committee.”
The version of the Labor-HHS-Education bill that was approved by the House Appropriations Committee on July 11—but never brought up for a vote on the House floor—defunded both Planned Parenthood and federal research that uses tissue taken from aborted babies.
The version of the Labor-HHS-Education bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee on June 28 permitted funding of Planned Parenthood and research that uses tissue taken from aborted babies.
By joining the Defense Department funding bill to the Senate Appropriations Committee’s version of the Labor-HHS-Education bill, the Republican leadership made it impossible for a senator to vote against funding Planned Parenthood and fetal tissue research without also voting against funding the Defense Department.
On Aug. 23, the Senate took up the version of H.R. 6157 that “married” the Defense and Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bills and permitted funding Planned Parenthood and fetal tissue research. Sen. Rand Paul (R.-Ky.) fought to get a vote on an amendment to the bill that would defund Planned Parenthood.
Before the Republican leadership agreed to such a vote, Paul needed to go to the floor to speak out about what was happening.
“My amendment would end the funding of Planned Parenthood,” Paul said. “Yet my amendment is now being blocked by Republicans.”
“Many voters think Republicans actually care about the unborn,” said Paul. “Many voters think Republicans are really opposed to government-funded abortions. But the dirty little secret is that Republican leadership is blocking my amendment to defund Planned Parenthood.”
“Big-spending Republicans fear that blocking funding for Planned Parenthood would derail their plans to greatly expand the welfare-warfare state,” he said. “So be it. The public has long known that the Democrats are the abortion party. Now the public will know that many Republicans just pay lip service to pro-life issues and are really more concerned with bloated government spending than with saving lives.”
After Paul’s speech, the Republican leadership did allow a vote on his amendment to defund Planned Parenthood—but it failed 45-48.
The Senate then approved the overall “married” Defense and Labor-HHS-Education bill by a vote of 85-7.
Without holding an up-or-down vote on the House Appropriations Committee’s version of the Labor-HHS-Education bill--which would have defunded Planned Parenthood and fetal-tissue research--the House Republican leadership named House members to join a conference committee with members of the Senate to work out a final version of H.R. 6157.
The conference committee's version--like the Senate's version—would marry the Defense and Labor-HHS-Education appropriations.
The conference committee's “married” version of H.R. 6157 also included a continuing resolution that will fund through Dec. 7 all government agencies that do not see their appropriations bills passed by Sept. 30, the last day of the fiscal year.
This final version of H.R. 6157 permits funding of Planned Parenthood and federal research that uses tissue taken from aborted babies.
On Tuesday, the Senate voted 93 to 7 to approve it.
That gives House members this choice: If they want to vote against funding Planned Parenthood and research that uses tissue taken from aborted babies, they must vote against funding the Department of Defense and in favor of closing down any government agencies whose approprations bills are not passed by Sept. 30.
Shelby was happy with the Senate's action.
“Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) today praised the Senate’s passage of the final conference agreement reached on H.R. 6157, the second of three Fiscal Year 2019 minibus appropriations packages, which includes funding bills for the Department of Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies subcommittees,” said a statement published Tuesday by Shelby’s committee.
“The bill also contains a continuing resolution (CR) through December 7, 2018, for any appropriations bills not enacted before October 1, 2018,” the statement said.
“Following passage in the House, which is expected to vote on the legislation next week, the package will be sent to the president’s desk for his signature,” said the statement.
Shelby applauded the Senate Republican and Democratic leaders for pushing the bill through.
“I want to thank my colleagues--particularly Leaders [Mitch] McConnell and [Chuck] Schumer and Vice Chairman [Patrick] Leahy--for their help in moving the Defense-Labor-HHS conference report before the Senate.”
The seven senators who voted against the bill included six Republicans and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I.-Vt.)
Sen. Mike Lee (R.-Utah), one of the six Republicans, delivered a floor speech explaining his opposition to this bill that funds Planned Parenthood and fetal-tissue research.
“For the second straight year of unified Republican governance—unified pro-life governance—Congress’s annual spending bills will include no new reforms protecting unborn children or getting federal taxpayers out of the abortion business,” said Lee.
“The House version of this Health and Human Services spending bill included multiple reforms,” said Lee. “It denied taxpayer funds to the largest abortion provider in the country, Planned Parenthood. It eliminated Title X family planning grants, which cross-subsidize abortion providers. It prohibited Federal funding of research on aborted fetal tissue. It included the Conscience Protection Act protecting pro-life people and groups from funding discrimination.
“None of these modest, commonsense spending reforms survived the House-Senate negotiations—none of them,” said Lee. “None was made a priority by the people empowered to set priorities.”
“Under this bill,” said Lee, “neither the unborn nor taxpayers are any more protected from the abortion industry than they were under President Obama and a unified Democratic Congress.”