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NATIONAL POLITICS & POLICY | Language to Roll Back Mexico City Policy Will Not Be in Omnibus Package, Sen. Leahy Says

NATIONAL POLITICS & POLICY | Language to Roll Back Mexico City Policy Will Not Be in Omnibus Package, Sen. Leahy Says
[Dec. 14, 2007]

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chair of the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations Subcommittee, said language in the fiscal year 2008 foreign operations spending bill (HR 2764) to overturn or loosen the "Mexico City" policy, also known as the "global gag" rule, will not be included in the omnibus spending package, CQ Today reports. President Bush has threatened to veto any package that included the new language. The Mexico City policy 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.

All 11 unfinished spending bills are expected to be combined into the foreign operations bill when the House considers the measure early next week, according to CQ Today (Graham-Silverman, CQ Today, 12/13). Both the House and Senate versions of the foreign operations bill include language that would loosen 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 would overturn the broader Mexico City policy (Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 12/10).

Leahy said the provisions "will come out, and abortions will go up." According to CQ Today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D), who supports loosening the Mexico City policy restrictions, also indicated the "inevitability" of removing the provisions. Pelosi said Wednesday that what Congress has "to do first and foremost" is negotiate a spending bill "that will be signed" by President Bush (CQ Today, 12/13).

Omnibus Package

Pelosi at a news conference Thursday said that Democratic leaders hope to finish drafting the omnibus package over the weekend and consider the measure early next week, The Hill reports. "We would love to have it up on the Internet over the weekend and in the [House] Rules Committee on Monday and on the floor on Tuesday," Pelosi said, adding that leaders of both parties in both chambers are continuing to negotiate (Bolton, The Hill, 12/13).

House Democrats have agreed to draft a bill that meets Bush's spending limit but also said they will shift funding from Bush's priorities to those with Democratic support. The federal government is operating on a stopgap spending bill (Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 12/13). Congress on Thursday passed an extension of the stopgap bill (HJ Res 69), which will fund the federal government until Dec. 21.

Some lawmakers expressed optimism about passing the FY 2008 omnibus spending package, but they added that several issues need to be resolved and that a deal is not certain, CQ Today reports (Clarke/Higa, CQ Today, 12/13). "I have no agreement at this stage with people in the House, the Republicans in the Senate and the White House," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said (Taylor, AP/mlive.com, 12/13). White House press secretary Dana Perino said that the Bush administration "in general" is "encouraged that we can get to an endgame" with the budget but added that lawmakers must resolve important details (The Hill, 12/13).