Late last week, the House and Senate wrapped up a conference on a spending bill package for the departments of Labor, HHS, and Education, coupled with the Department of Defense (LHHS/DOD). Conferees also agreed to add a short-term continuing resolution (CR) for remaining federal agencies to get beyond the November election without a government shutdown. While not the same “omnibus” appropriations bill that we have seen most years, this “minibus” package covers the lion’s share of fiscal year 2019 discretionary spending across the entire federal government. Unfortunately, in the process of negotiating differences between the House and Senate bills, all provisions that would have advanced pro-life and religious liberty policies that were in the House version were rejected as “poison pills” by conference leadership. These “riders” included legislation for which CWALAC has been fighting: the Conscience Protection Act, defunding abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood, banning aborted fetal tissue research, and including faith-based agencies in adoption and foster care.
Reacting to this unfortunate denial of conservative priorities, all of which had been approved in earlier action by House appropriators, CWALAC CEO and President Penny Nance said:
“It is highly disappointing that the only ‘rider’ conference negotiators could make a deal on was a continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown. Conservative House appropriators fought the good fight for many new pro-life and conscience protection provisions that are desperately needed to prevent taxpayer funds from propping up the abortion industry year after year.
“We need leaders to stand up for innocent life and stand firm to make progress. It won’t come without the willingness to fight to the end for our principles. If deals were made in these negotiations, then it is pretty clear who was on the losing side. Our members want to see results, and unfortunately, once again, pro-life and conscience protection priorities were sidelined.”
In further evidence of the steep climb ahead in this fight for progress, the Senate this week approved the LHHS/DOD spending package by a vote of 93-7 without a fight. We’ll see next week if the House follows suit.