What Catholics Need to Know about the Continuing Resolution
Average Americans are probably scratching their heads this week over the talk of a “Continuing Resolution”, spending cuts, the President’s budget request, and the rest of the Washington-speak on the news about how your tax dollars are spent in Washington.
Here is what you need to know…
Spending bills originate constitutionally in the House of Representatives. The previous Congress did not complete its work and pass the annual spending bills thus forcing a continuing resolution to be passed at the end of 2010. The budget released by President Obama this week is for next year – 2012. So, following procedure, the House Appropriations Committee introduced on February 11, 2011 another Continuing Resolution (H.R. 1) to fund the federal government for the last seven months of this fiscal year (until September 30, 2011) while cutting spending by over $100 billion from the President’s fiscal year 2011 budget request. According to a press release from the committee “[t]his CR legislation represents the largest single discretionary spending reduction in the history of Congress.”
Pro-Life and Values Provisions in the FY 2011 Continuing Resolution (provided by House Appropriations Committee)
The 2011 CR puts back in place the various pro-life riders (guidance) and provisions that were carried in the FY06 appropriations bills. It also puts back in place restrictions on needle exchange programs. Typically these provisions are spread amongst the Labor/HHS bill, State and Foreign Operations, Financial Services and the Commerce/Justice/Science bills.
Labor/Health and Human Services
Pro-life provisions.—The CR maintains all existing provisions related to abortion, as requested by the pro-life community.
- Medicare Conscience Protection – ensures that participating health plans, like the Catholic Bishops, are not prohibited from taking part in the Medicare+Choice program if they do not provide abortion services.
- Hyde Amendment – Bans federal funding for abortions domestically with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.
- Hyde Weldon – Provides conscience protection for health care entities who refuse to provide, pay for, or refer for abortion services.
- Dickey/Wicker – Bans federal funds for research in which human embryos are killed or endangered.
- Rape Reporting Requirement – Requires that Title X grantees comply with state rape, incest, sexual abuse and child abuse reporting requirements.
Needle exchange funding prohibition.—Last year Congressman David Obey (D, WI) modified the traditional ban the bill has carried on using federal funds for needle exchange programs. The CR returns to the old policy of an outright ban. Despite the push for this issue from social conservatives, this is not a partisan issue. There are several Republicans who voted in favor of the policy we are overturning, and there are several Democrats who voted to support the policy we are restoring through the CR.
State and Foreign Operations
- Tiahrt amendment – ensures family planning programs are voluntary.
- Helms amendment – bans foreign aid from being spent on abortions.
- Kemp-Kasten amendment – prohibits funds to organizations determined by the President to support coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.
- Prohibits the Peace Corps from funding abortion services.
- Prohibits funds from being made available to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and caps overall population/reproductive health activities at $440 million, the FY06 level.
- Mexico City Policy –This policy requires that foreign non-governmental entities receiving U.S. taxpayer money agree to neither perform nor actively promote abortion. President Obama issued an Executive Order overturning this policy in his first week in office.
- DC Abortion provision – Prevents the use of any Congressionally appropriated funds for elective abortions. It also prohibits District of Columbia “local” funds from being used to provide elective abortions.
- Needle Exchange – Prohibits the District from using either federal or local funds for needle exchange programs.
- Abortion Funding for Prisoners – Prohibits the Department of Corrections from providing abortions for inmates.
- Legal Services Corporation – Prohibits LSC from using federal funding to provide abortion related legal counsel.
- Patenting Human Organisms – Prohibits federal funds from being used to issue patents on a human organism.
In addition, there are amendments expected to be filed. One could be the Title X Abortion Provide Prohibition Act authored by Congressman Mike Pence (R, IN-06) modified and filed as an amendment to the spending bill. The other is a bi-partisan bill authored by Congressman John Fleming, M.D. (R-LA) and Congressman Dan Boren (D-OK) introduced H.R. 361, the “Abortion Non-Discrimination Act of 2011,” bi-partisan legislation which protects health care providers from being forced by government to provide abortions. The Fleming-Boren bill, modified into an amendment, would attempt to codify into law Bush Administration conscience protection rules the Obama Administration is attempting to reverse.
While there are several positive pro-life policies in the Continuing Resolution, it is one of those legislative tactics in Washington that highlights why we need to always be diligent and mindful of the details in bills.
By Matt Smith, Vice President of Catholic Advocate