It seems like only last week that Democrats were excoriating Joe Biden for his support of the Hyde Amendment. Actually, it really was only last week. That’s why many observers are somewhat surprised that House Democrats just passed a bill that keeps the Hyde Amendment alive for another year.
Last week, the pro-abortion left viciously attacked Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden for his continued support of the Hyde Amendment, a series of laws that prohibit using taxpayer funds for abortion. The backlash against Biden’s deviation from the leftist norm was so swift and severe that the candidate reversed himself quickly from a position that he had held for nearly a half-century.
“Circumstances have changed,” Biden told his supporters.
Now, a few days later, CNN reports that the Democrat-controlled House is scheduled to vote on a major spending today that will include the Hyde Amendment. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) introduced an amendment to remove the Hyde Amendment language from the bill, but the House leadership denied her a vote after the House Rules Committee determined that Pressley’s amendment decided it violated rules.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has urged his caucus to support the minibus spending bill, which includes funding for a wide range of federal departments and services. Democrats say that they don’t see a way to remove the Hyde Amendment language at the moment.
Biden’s reversal was “probably a rational decision for him to make,” Hoyer said, but added, “We have to deal with the legislative process here in the Congress.”
The Democratic conundrum on the Hyde Amendment is similar to the Republican problem on defunding Planned Parenthood and Obamacare or passing funding for the wall. Democrats control only one house of Congress while legislation must pass through the Senate and cross the president’s desk before it becomes law. If House Democrats pass a bill without the Hyde Amendment, it would be DOA in Mitch McConnell’s Senate.
The standoff would set up a confrontation over spending of the sort that has resulted in brinksmanship or government shutdowns in the past. Such standoffs usually reflect poorly on both parties and tend to be unwinnable.
Added to tactical concern is the fact that Democrats are out of the mainstream when it comes to federal funding for abortion, just as Republicans are on defunding Planned Parenthood and building a wall. Slate cites a bevy of polls that show that most Americans don’t want abortion to be a service funded by taxpayers.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did signal that the Hyde Amendment is definitely a target for Democrats should they win enough votes. “I wish we never had a Hyde amendment,” Pelosi said, “but it is the law of the land right now and I don't see that there is an opportunity to get rid of it with the current occupant of the White House and some in the United States Senate.”
The bottom line is that Democrats really don’t want the Hyde Amendment, but, having seen Republican frustrations with trying to force controversial items through Congress, they know that it is much easier to stop a piece of legislation than to pass one. Democrats don’t want to be viewed as obstructing a necessary spending bill just prior to the election. If Republicans blocked the bill without the Hyde Amendment, Democrats would be forced into a lose-lose situation of either publicly surrendering or shutting the government down and then publicly surrendering while fighting for an unpopular position.
Democrats aren’t necessarily being hypocritical on the Hyde Amendment. Instead, they are being pragmatic and acting strategically. They haven’t changed their core principles of supporting abortion and spending more taxpayer money, but they do realize that it would be counterproductive to their cause to push the issue now.
Originally published on The Resurgent