Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) on Friday sent a letter to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer urging them to use House Democrats' considerable leverage to prevent a D.C. abortion rider from being included in the final fiscal year 2012 Appropriations bill, and yesterday 108 House Democrats, including Norton, wrote to Appropriation Committee leaders asking for the elimination of all anti-choice riders in the final bill. In her letter, Norton stressed that House Democrats have unprecedented leverage in upcoming votes because House Republicans cannot pass their must-pass spending bills without Democratic votes. She cited the recent package of three appropriations bills and the debt ceiling bill, the final fiscal year 2011 continuing resolution, and the fiscal year 2012 continuing resolution that runs out December 16 as specific legislation that would have failed without Democratic votes.
Norton also joined her House colleagues in a letter to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) and Ranking Member Norm Dicks (D-WA), urging them to set aside riders that could be harmful to women's health in the final fiscal year 2012 appropriations bills. The letter specifically cites the House Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee bill that prohibits the District from using its local funds to cover abortion services for the city's most vulnerable women as an example of a harmful rider the House members want eliminated.
"It is time Democrats took advantage of our leverage to protect D.C.'s right to home rule in the fiscal year 2012 spending bill," Norton said. "As we have seen with the recent must-pass bills, Tea Party Republicans will not vote for the bills their own leadership must pass this year. The Republicans need Democrats to save them from themselves. We must get something for it. Allowing D.C. to spend its own money as it sees fit is not too much to ask."
In October, the administration urged Congress to pass its final appropriations "without ideological or political provisions," or else the President would veto the legislation. Last month, 182 members of Congress called for partisan policy riders to be taken out of appropriations bills.
The Norton letter follows.
December 2, 2011
Dear Leader Pelosi and Whip Hoyer:
You have always been the leading advocates for the rights of District of Columbia residents. I write to urge you to use House Democrats' considerable, and we think unprecedented, leverage to prevent the D.C. abortion rider from being included in the final fiscal year 2012 Appropriations bill.
As we saw on the final fiscal year 2011 spending bill, the debt-ceiling bill, and the first fiscal year 2012 continuing resolution, Democratic votes have been necessary to pass spending bills in the House. The recent House vote on the minibus appropriations bill has given Democrats more leverage than ever to protect D.C.'s right to home rule in the final fiscal year 2012 spending bill. Not only were House Democrats necessary to pass the minibus, more Democrats (165) than Republicans (133) voted for it, and even some Republicans in leadership voted against it. The leverage we have is only enhanced by Speaker Boehner's reported opposition to another continuing resolution.
As you know, the House Appropriations Committee-passed fiscal year 2012 D.C. Appropriations bill prohibits the District from spending its local funds on abortion services for low-income women, but the Senate Appropriations Committee-passed bill is free of all anti-home-rule riders. After the District was singled out in the 2011 spending deal with the re-imposition of the abortion rider, which you led in removing during the 111th Congress, District officials and residents engaged in unprecedented civil disobedience, and thereafter a coalition of 100 national and local organizations, with their millions of members across the country, became a potent third-party lobby for the District's right to spend its local funds without congressional interference in fiscal year 2012. Before the Senate Appropriations Committee markup of the D.C. Appropriations bill, for example, NARAL Pro-Choice America and other coalition members activated thousands of their supporters to contact potential swing committee members and urge them to oppose a D.C. abortion amendment. Further, President Obama has become particularly outspoken on behalf of D.C.'s right to home rule. The Statement of Administration Policy on the House version of the fiscal year 2012 D.C. Appropriations bill said that the abortion rider "undermines the principle of states' rights and of D.C. home rule," and the administration recently indicated to appropriators that it opposes the inclusion of the rider in the final spending bill.
The abortion rider in the House Appropriations Committee-passed fiscal year 2012 D.C. Appropriations bill is but one piece of an all-out assault by House Republicans on women's health and reproductive rights in the fiscal year 2012 appropriations bills. The pro-choice community and pro-choice House members have been clear that they view the D.C. abortion rider as a significant component of the attack on women's health, especially considering that it was the only new anti-choice rider in the fiscal year 2011 spending bill.
As we head into what may be the final negotiations on the fiscal year 2012 appropriations bill, I know we can count on you to remind all parties up front about Democrats' strong opposition to the D.C. abortion rider.
Eleanor Holmes Norton