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Hullabaloo


Thursday, February 03, 2011

 
Reasonable Republicans

by digby


So the Republicans have generously compromised their principles and will remove the "forcible rape" language of the new abortion restriction bill. The pro-choice forces "won" this one and now the onus is on them to be as generous in return. After all, it's not as if the rest of the bill is any big deal. Note the anti-choicers' careful talking points:

“The word forcible will be replaced with the original language from the Hyde Amendment,” Smith spokesman Jeff Sagnip told POLITICO, referring to the long-standing ban on direct use of taxpayer dollars for abortion services...


“The language of H.R. 3 was not intended to change existing law regarding taxpayer funding for abortion in cases of rape, nor is it expected that it would do so,” Lipinski told Talking Points Memo in a statement.


See? They aren't intending to really change anything substantial. Except, of course, they are.
David Waldman at DKos spells out the real effects of what's left, and it goes beyond abortion rights:

In H.R. 3, Republicans revive the mid-90s "Istook amendment" theory of the fungibility of money to include under their definition of "taxpayer funding for abortion" all tax deductions, credits or other benefits for the cost of health insurance, when that insurance includes under its plan coverage for abortion.

So if a company provides health care benefits for its employees, and the plan they pay for includes coverage for abortion, the company becomes ineligible for the normal federal tax deductions and credits that are the usual reward for providing benefits. That's a gigantic tax increase. If you pay for your own coverage directly, no deductions, credits, etc. for you, either, if the plan you select offers abortion coverage. Whether you or someone on your plan ever gets one or not. All deductions associated with your health care costs are disallowed.

That, apparently, will impact approximately 87 percent of private insurance plans on the market today. And that included, until recently, the plan provided to employees of the Republican National Committee.

The RNC, of course, dropped that coverage like a hot potato once it "found out" what the facts were. But why did they do it?

"Money from our loyal donors should not be used for this purpose," Chairman Michael Steele said in a statement. "I don't know why this policy existed in the past, but it will not exist under my administration. Consider this issue settled."

Not a word about money from taxpayers. Steele surely didn't know that Republicans in the House would later introduce such a bill. But then again, the fungibility theory underlying the bill has been in the Republican bag of tricks since at least 1995. It just didn't occur to Republicans that it might apply to them, just like it never occurred to them to check whether they were paying for abortion coverage. But now that they've safely jumped out of the way, the other 87% of you are screwed.

And by the way, there's no difference or barrier between targeting abortion and doing the same in the future for benefit plans that cover contraception.



And in case you think this can't actually happen with a Democratic Senate and president, Waldman reminds us of some very recent history:

The proponents of H.R. 3 make the false (but possibly attractive) argument that this "just codifies" Hyde, and since pro-choice champions once agreed to get out of the way of such measures, they might as well agree to do so again. I'm not so sure that the Senate wouldn't jump out of the way again, on precisely that theory. There's a far better chance of it being blocked as a stand-alone measure, of course. But that would almost certainly not be the end of it. It'd come up as an amendment time and time again. Just see how quickly Republicans in the Senate got a vote on total health care repeal even after Democrats comfortably insisted that that could never happen. The same play would work for H.R. 3.

And what would the White House do with such a bill? Again, it smoothed the path to the passage and enactment of the health care bill on the premise that it didn't do anything more than continue Hyde, and would be faced with the same argument again. I'm not so sure they don't jump out of the way, too. Chris Bowers couldn't get a definitive answer when he asked point blank just last week.

Q Next week the House is going to pass a bill called the No Taxpayer-funded Abortion Act. And there’s a not insignificant chance it will pass the Senate as well. What would President Obama do if that got to his desk?

MR. AXELROD: Well, you know it is unfortunate that the health care debate has now shifted there. We’ve got a lot of challenges that we need to deal with, primary challenges that we’re facing -- the economy -- and the President outlined some of them last night. Obviously this is a very divisive issue. And one would hope that we don’t take that path and repeat old debates and divisions to the exclusion of dealing with things that are so fundamental right now for the country on which there’s some consensus.

So I haven’t seen -- I don’t know what exactly will pass Congress. Obviously, his position on this issue is well known. And we believe that it was addressed responsibly in the health care bill in the first place. But I mean, I just don’t know what’s coming, so it would probably be precipitous of me to say -- to even accept your hypothesis that it’s going to arrive.
Here's a great primer on what Axelrod is so studiously avoiding giving an opinion on.

That would explain why all the Republicans are saying over and over again that they are just codifying existing practice. Nothing to see here folks. Let's just dot the is and cross the ts. Except, of course, that's a lie. These bills go much further that anything we've seen and have the result of pretty much taking abortion out of the health insurance system altogether. And why in the world should anyone who says they believe in women's rights allow that to happen? This is, until further notice, a constitutional right we're talking about.

However, for those of you who are sick of this icky debate or don't care one way or the other read Waldman's whole post as it lays out yet another avenue for assault on liberal programs through this notion of fungibility. This is yet another avenue to de-fund government altogether and if it is done in this case there is little reason to believe they will stop at women's rights.

I like what Debra Cooper at Open Left says in this post:

Let's talk about radical demands. REPEAL THE HYDE AMENDMENT If we compromise around the rape exception, we get this bill that denies millions of women access to abortion. If we want a good compromise so that this bill doesn't pass, let's widen the debate. Let's do what the right has successfully done for 30 years. REPEAL THE HYDE AMENDMENT.

Think like the generals at the battle of Salamis, Actium and throughout the ages. Outflank them. Demand the repeal of the Hyde amendment so that for the first time in 30 years, the middle will have moved back to where it began.
That's right. The strategy that was employed in the health care debate was a debacle and should not be repeated. Hyde should be repealed, not codified and no Democratic president should be allowed to get away with even feinting in that direction. He should expect a shitstorm of epic proportions from women if he does this. In fact, he should issue a veto threat and put this thing to rest right now.

Women make up 60% of the Democratic party and are not available as a bargaining chip so that Democrats can "move to the middle." They've been "compromised" quite enough. Find something else this time.

Update: And no, this is not acceptable as an exchange for restricting abortion rights. It's a necessity in its own right and is a fight that can be won without any compromise at all. The vast majority of the American public believe that birth control should be easily available and there is no reason for these zealots to be able to extract anything to enact this. Outlawing it is part of their long game, to be sure, but they do not want to be exposed on this prematurely.

.