House Republicans have found a new hostage to take in the fight to prevent a government shutdown: contraception.
In an amendment to HJ 59, the continuing resolution (CR) that must pass both chambers of Congress by Monday if the government is to remain open, the GOP has pegged the continued funding of the federal government to Republican members’ demand of a one-year delay in the implementation of the portion of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, that mandates employer-provided health-care plans to offer coverage for prescription contraception with no co-pay.
Republicans, including Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), are referring to this measure as a “conscience clause.”
The House version of the CR is also expected to demand a one-year delay in all aspects of the health-care program that have yet to begin. The ACA health-care exchanges are slated to open for business on October 1.
Because there is no time for further negotiation with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)—who has said that he will not send any spending measure that includes cuts to Obamacare to the Senate floor—before the government runs out of funding, the actions by House Republicans all but guarantee a government shutdown.
The Pro-Choice Caucus, led by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Diana DeGette (D-CO), issued the following statement:
“While the American people need Congress to focus on passing a continuing budget resolution funding all services and resources for the American people, House Republicans are more intent on focusing their efforts—and now our precious time—on limiting a woman’s access to contraception. This egregious attack on women’s health could result in potentially taking away heath services for millions of women and families. House Republicans’ pursuit of an extreme crusade against women’s health is bringing the federal government to the brink of a shutdown.”
The measure to delay the contraception provision of the ACA also appears to delay the implementation of a prohibition on insurers for demanding co-payments for such preventive care measures as mammograms and other cancer screenings for women.
On Wednesday, at the urging of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Republicans in the House of Representatives passed a CR that included a provision that would have defunded the ACA in its entirety.
When the Senate voted on the resolution, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) stripped out the measure that would have defunded Obamacare, and sent the CR back to the House.
Not content to vote simply to keep the government open without exacting a price for their cooperation, House Republicans arrived at their plan to delay the health-care program, all but ensuring a government shutdown on Monday, since Democrats are refusing to negotiate over a program they note is already law, and which President Barack Obama defended during his successful re-election campaign.
“American voters are fed up with the GOP playing politics with women’s health. We have one message for the extremist minority attempting to use this moment to ram through their anti-women agenda: do your job and govern,” Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement. “We elected you to make the country a better place for all Americans, not play daddy to millions of adult women in this country who are more than equipped to make our own decisions and run our own lives.”
Earlier this week, anti-choice members of the House sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner, pressing him to add to the CR language from HR 940, a bill being pushed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that “would amend the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to ensure that the federal government cannot require individuals,charities, or businesses to buy insurance coverage that includes items or services against which they have deeply held moral or religious objections,” according to the letter, which was penned by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA).