The Democrat-led House has been working this week on a limited package of legislation to provide relief to Americans impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, but it appears that some in the party, such as Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), couldn’t resist the opportunity to use the decidedly non-partisan issue to pursue some exceptionally partisan agenda goals.
The Daily Caller reported that, according to unnamed White House sources, Pelosi attempted to insert language into the bill that would have paved the way for the expenditure of federal taxpayer funds for abortions — something that is explicitly prohibited by federal law.
Capitalizing on crisis
Pelosi had been engaged in negotiations with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on the economic stimulus package, but according to sources said to be familiar with the discussions, the speaker sought to include “several” partisan provisions that threatened to undermine the purportedly bipartisan effort.
One of those provisions was described as a “mandate” to provide up to $1 billion in federal funds to reimburse laboratory claims. The problem with that in the eyes of some, though, is that the language used could serve as a precedent for sidestepping the Hyde Amendment, which expressly prohibits the use of federal funds for abortions.
“A new mandatory funding stream that does not have Hyde protections would be unprecedented,” one of the White House officials told The Daily Caller. “Under the guise of protecting people, Speaker Pelosi is working to make sure taxpayer dollars are spent covering abortion — which is not only backwards, but goes against historical norms.”
Another official described Pelosi’s provision as little more than a “slush fund” that could be used for all sorts of things aside from the coronavirus, while a third official wondered, “What the Hyde Amendment and abortion have to do with protecting Americans from coronavirus?”
Pelosi backs down
According to Politico on Thursday, it appeared that Pelosi backed down from the effort to include that particular provision in the coronavirus relief legislation.
Instead, it will be drafted into a separate measure that could be considered on the floor at a later date.
Meanwhile, the fate of the coronavirus relief bill itself remained unclear until late Friday when Pelosi announced that an agreement had indeed been reached with the White House on a package of provisions meant to alleviate the economic impact of the current public health crisis.
Though the speaker indicated that the House would pass the measure Friday, it is uncertain whether the Senate will approve the package next week upon returning from a brief break. Trump, for his part, has said he would sign any relief legislation that made it to his desk.
Disappointing partisan display
Hopefully, in the interest of bipartisanship and a desire to serve the American people in a time of crisis, Pelosi and Mnuchin and whoever else was involved in negotiations over the legislative package eventually made an effort to find common ground and resisted the opportunity to try and sneak through any additional narrow partisan policy goals.
To be sure, there is a time and place for partisan bickering in Congress over policy aims — but discussions on emergency legislation to deal with a public health crisis is not it, and it would be nice to think that everyone in Washington could recognize and respect that.