Only hours before the President delivers the State of the Union on Tuesday, the House of Representatives is expected to approve a comprehensive ban on taxpayer-funded abortions. The bill, H.R. 7, the No Taxpayer Funded Abortion Act, has 165 co-sponsors and no chance of becoming law. It will almost certainly not receive a vote in the Democratic controlled Senate and the White House already vowed to veto it in the highly unlikely event that the bill somehow passes both chambers of Congress. On a procedural vote to set the terms of debate on the bill passed almost entirely on party lines by a vote of 224-192. Only two Democrats, Dan Lipinski of Illinois and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, joined 222 Republicans in backing the bill.
The bill goes beyond current law, which bars federal funding of abortion via Medicaid or the Affordable Care Act. Much of this is already embodied in the Hyde Amendment, a rider annually attached to every appropriations bill since 1977. It bans the District of Columbia from using local money to fund abortions, prevent abortion coverage from being included in state exchanges under the ACA as well as instituting tax penalties on businesses which offer health care plans that cover abortion. Previously, the bill passed the House in 2011 by a vote of 251-175, with 16 Democrats joining 235 Republicans in supporting it. It did not receive a vote in the Senate.
The vote today still sends an important signal that House Republicans aren’t all hugs, sunshine and moderation even as the bipartisan Farm Bill is scheduled for a vote Wednesday and Speaker John Boehner signals his support for some version of comprehensive immigration reform this year. Republicans are still resolutely supporting a pro-life agenda even while trying to “rebrand” other parts of the GOP’s image in the wake of the 2012 election. Tuesday’s vote comes less than a week after RNC chair Reince Priebus rescheduled the first day of the RNC’s winter meetings in Washington D.C. to allow members to attend the anti-abortion March For Life.