Budget Deal To Prohibit DC from Funding Abortions

The budget deal agreed to Friday night between Congressional leaders and brokered by the President to avert a government shutdown includes a provision banning the District of Columbia from spending its own funds to subsidize abortions for low-income women. 

Specifically, the rider reads as follows:

Prohibits the District of Columbia from using its own, non-federal funds to pay for abortions beyond the very limited circumstances in which federal funds are currently available (in circumstances of rape or incest and to save the life of a pregnant woman). Sec. 1590.

Republicans also managed to retain a rider prohibiting the District of Columbia from using Federal funds for a syringe exchange program even though such programs have long been proven as a cost-effective means of preventing transmissions of deadly diseases. However, the GOP did find the necessary funds to restart the city's controversial school voucher program, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program, that is really no more than a boondoggle for religious schools. The program has been a priority of House Speaker John Boehner, using Federal tax dollars to subsidize private-school tuition. Both DC Mayor Vince Gray and DC's non-voting Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton oppose the school voucher program.

It's pretty evident that GOP is captive to the interests of the Christian Right. Bill by bill and whenever they can, they inch us forward towards a theocracy.

UPDATE: Via Politico, the reaction of DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton to the riders concerning the District in the budget:

“This morning, District residents learned that the administration and Senate Democrats were willing to let the House Republicans treat them as second-class citizens,” Norton wrote in a statement. “I am relieved that the bill did not include the national policy riders I abhorred. …However, this entire city of 600,000 taxpaying Americans has every reason to be angry that the administration and Senate Democrats did not draw a similar line in the sand that stopped at the District, and the self-governing rights of its citizens.”

A Prelude to Armageddon

Matthew Cooper of the National Journal has it right, I think, in his piece entitled The Budget Skirmish Ends, The War Begins noting that "we’ve just seen is a phony war in Washington, a quibble over a few billion that presages the fight over trillions." With the ink on the budget agreement not yet dry and with a vote scheduled for next week finalizing its approval, conservatives have already moved on the bigger battle looming now in two weeks time, the vote to raise the debt ceiling. Indeed as Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas already candidly forewarned on CNN yesterday, "The debt ceiling is going to be Armageddon." 

While most of us were still engaged in watching this macabre display of legislative hostage taking that House Speaker John Boehner led, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a potential GOP Vice Presidential nominee, took to the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal on March 30th to announce that he intended to vote against "an increase in the debt limit unless it is the last one we ever authorize and is accompanied by a plan for fundamental tax reform, an overhaul of our regulatory structure, a cut to discretionary spending, a balanced-budget amendment, and reforms to save Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid." Despite the feigned concern for New Deal and Great Society era social insurance programs that the Tea Party favorite has on more than one occasion vowed to privatize, Senator Rubio was savvy enough to throw back then-Senator Obama's own words in 2006 when he voted against raising the debt ceiling declaring "Raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure." 

Considering the scope of Senator Rubio's demands, it's fair to predict that debt ceiling fight promises to be an even more bruising battle than the one we just endured. Within moments of President Obama hailing the deal that was struck, the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky tried to recapture his lost relevance by saying he hoped that the debt limit vote would be an occasion for more spending cuts. If the Republicans managed to cut nearly $40 billion spending in this budget showdown, Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, the Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, announced in January that before any debt ceiling limit was voted on, he would demand $100 billion in cuts. If Rep. Camp holds true to his word, we only have to find another $60 billion in cuts.

Despite Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's recent exhortations to Congressional Republicans not to "play around with" a coming vote to raise the government's legal borrowing limit, I have no doubt that the GOP intends to demand more cuts in the next round of legislative hostage taking. In short, buckle up we're in for the ride of our lives as life in America as we have known it comes to an end. I have no doubt that GOP will win in the short-term drawing the country ever closer to a collapse in living standards for 80 percent of Americans all in the name of protecting the wealth, often ill-gotten, of the top one percent. Amageddon, here we come.


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