NATIONAL POLITICS & POLICY | House Approves Spending Bill That Levels Abstinence-Only Funds, Increases Title X Funding
[Dec. 18, 2007]
The House on Monday voted 253-154 to approve a $516 billion fiscal year 2008 spending bill that combines 11 unfinished spending measures (HR 2764), the New York Times reports (Hulse, New York Times, 12/18). The House then voted 206-201 to add $31 billion for troops in Afghanistan to the measure. The combined spending package is set for Senate debate Tuesday. House Republican leaders issued a "carefully worded" statement that announced their opposition to the bill but left open the option to support it when it comes back for a final vote as early as Tuesday, the AP/CNN.com reports (AP/CNN.com, 12/18). Senate Republicans are expected to add funding for the war in Iraq. The White House on Monday said President Bush would sign the bill only if Iraq funding is included, CQ Today reports.
The measure would maintain funding for community-based abstinence-only education programs at the FY 2007 level of $113 million (Wayne, CQ Today, 12/17). The Title X family planning program would receive $300 million, a $17 million increase over last year's funding level of $283 million (Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 12/17).
The bill also includes language allowing overseas HIV/AIDS programs "relief from abstinence-education mandates," the Washington Post reports (Weisman, Washington Post, 12/18). The measure does not include language to overturn or loosen the so-called "Mexico City" policy, in the wake of Bush's unwavering threat to veto any bill that altered the policy (Graham-Silverman, CQ Today, 12/17). The Mexico City policy, also known as the "global gag rule," bars U.S. funding to foreign nongovernmental organizations that, with non-U.S. funds, provide or pay for abortion services or counseling or engage in advocacy on abortion-related issues. Both the original House and Senate versions of the foreign operations bill included language that would have loosened the Mexico City policy restrictions by allowing the U.S. government to donate contraceptive supplies but not money to groups providing family planning services abroad, including groups that offer abortions or favor legalized abortion. The Senate version of the bill also included language to overturn the broader Mexico City policy (Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 12/17).
Bush on Monday during a speech in Fredericksburg, Va., said Congress was "making some pretty good progress toward coming up with a fiscally sound budget -- one that meets priorities, helps on some emergencies and enables us to say that we've been fiscally sound with the people's money." A statement by the White House Office of Management and Budget did not threaten a veto beyond including funding for Iraq, but the statement criticized emergency spending levels and funding for home-state projects. Several Republican leaders criticized the measure. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) called the bill the "latest reflection of the Democrats' misplaced spending priorities" (New York Times, 12/18).
Many House Democratic leaders were "only mildly supportive" of the measure, according to the Post. Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said the House had "an obligation to "compromise and move on" (Washington Post, 12/18). Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), speaking about the removal of language to overturn or loosen the Mexico City policy, said the "dogmatic adherence to an illogical position diminishes [U.S.] influence around the world and prevents us from working effectively to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS and unintended pregnancies and reduce abortions" (AP/Winston-Salem Journal, 12/18).