Republicans are searching for a post-Trump identity now that they are out of power in Washington, but one policy position will certainly carry on, and likely take on a renewed emphasis: opposition to federal funding of abortion.
Almost the entirety of the GOP House caucus, led by Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Banks (pictured), have pledged to oppose any legislation that repeals the Hyde Amendment, the decades-old policy that prohibits federal programs such as Medicaid from paying for abortions.
It is perhaps the clearest line that party members -- 200 in total -- have drawn on policy since Joe Biden became president.
In a letter to both House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Schumer, obtained by RealClearPolitics, the minority party made its position known: “We pledge to vote against any government funding bill that eliminates or weakens the Hyde Amendment or other current-law, pro-life appropriations provisions.”
The sentiment is not new. But the need for the proclamation is, conservatives say.
A Clinton-era provision, the Hyde Amendment was included in appropriations bills through the presidencies of both Republicans and Democrats. In fact, there was a time when it was relatively uncontroversial. And for a time, Biden also opposed spending taxpayer dollars on abortion. “I will continue to abide by the same principle that has guided me throughout my 21 years in the Senate: those of us who are opposed to abortion should not be compelled to pay for them,” he wrote in 1994. “As you may know, I have consistently — on no fewer than 50 occasions — voted against federal funding of abortions.”
But times have changed and so has Biden.
After reaffirming his support for the amendment one week, he reversed it the next. “Circumstances have changed,” he said during a June 2019 speech in Atlanta. “We’ve seen state after state including Georgia passing extreme laws,” the former vice president added. “It’s clear that these folks are going to stop at nothing to get rid of Roe.”
Biden has brought his updated view with him to the White House at a time when Democrats control both chambers of Congress. And his party expects to see changes. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the Democrat who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said as much in December.
“This is the last year,” DeLauro promised. “The time has come in this current moment to reckon with the norm, with the status quo” regarding Hyde.
When asked where the president stands on repealing the amendment he once supported, White House press secretary Jen Psaki would only point to Biden’s personal faith. “I will just take the opportunity to remind all of you that he is a devout Catholic and somebody who attends church regularly,” she told a reporter from a Catholic news agency. “…I don’t have anything more for you on that.” The Catholic Church views abortion as immoral and impermissible.
House Republicans are not waiting for a more precise answer from the new president, and while he stresses the need for unity, they are making clear that this is an area where they will not compromise. According to a senior GOP aide, “This is a line in the sand that conservatives of all stripes agree we cannot cross.”
Banks, who helped author the letter, said in a statement that “millions of Americans do not want their hard-earned money used to pay for abortions.” He added, “My colleagues and I demand congressional leaders protect the ban on taxpayer-funded abortions and save the Hyde Amendment.”