SERVICE MEMBERS HOME OWNERSHIP TAX ACT OF 2009--Resumed -- (Senate - December 08, 2009)
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Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President, I appreciate this very much. It has been a healthy debate, a big debate, and it is an unusual debate because we haven't debated Hyde around here for 20 years. So this is an unusual debate we are having. Normally, we debate about abortion but not about abortion funding because there has been an agreement in this body for 33 years about that. So this is an unusual debate, but I think it is an important one.
I think it is extraneous, in many respects, to the health care bill itself. Abortion is not health care, and so why we are debating the funding of abortion in a health care bill seems odd to me. But it is in the base bill, and we need to deal with that.
A lot of people are coming forward and saying: Well, OK, which way is this; is it in the bill or not on funding for abortion? I am going to go to an independent fact checker and cite this. This is an independent research and prize-winning fact checker, PolitiFact.com, and they say our opponents' characterization of this amendment was ``misleading'' and that ``the people who would truly pay all their premium with their own money, and who would not use Federal subsidies at all, not barred in any way from obtaining abortion coverage, even if they obtain their insurance from the federally administered health exchange.''
That is an independent group, PolitiFact.com, saying this doesn't limit the ability for somebody on their own to be able to purchase abortion coverage, if they want to do that, but in the base bill, what we are saying is we don't want to put Federal funds in it as the longstanding policy has been here.
As the President himself has said when he spoke to a joint session of Congress, launching the health care debate:
One more misunderstanding I want to clear up--under our plan, no Federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and Federal conscience laws will remain in place.
Unfortunately, in the Reid bill, this is not true. This is not true in the Reid bill. What is in the Reid bill is the so-called Capps amendment language, which allows for the Federal funding of abortion.
I wish to describe--and I think a great deal of what is in here has been described, but what is taking place is the Federal subsidization of an insurance program that will have abortion funding in it. According to most groups, that is what is taking place in the Capps language, which is in the base Reid bill.
I say this is an unusual debate that is taking place because we haven't debated Hyde for years around here. I wish to read to you what is our normal status on funding of abortions; that is, that we don't do Federal funding of abortions. I will read to you what the normal status is. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which supports this base bill but does not support funding of abortions, describes it this way:
In every major federal program where federal funds combined with nonfederal funds to support or purchase health coverage, Congress has consistently sought to ensure that the entire package of benefits excludes elective abortions. For example, the Hyde amendment governing Medicaid prevents the funding of such abortions not only using federal funds themselves, but also using the state matching funds that combine with the federal funds to subsidize the coverage. A similar amendment excludes elective abortions from all plans offered under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, where private premiums are supplemented by a federal subsidy.
So there it is prohibited as well.
Where relevant, such provisions also specify that federal funds may not be used to help pay the administrative expenses of a benefits package that includes abortions. Under this policy, those wishing to use state or private funds to purchase abortion coverage must do so completely separately from the plan that is purchased in whole or in part with federal financial assistance.
Here I take a quick aside. That is what we are saying should be done in this bill, but it is not what is done in this bill.
This is the policy that health care reform legislation must follow if it is to comply with the legal status quo on federal funding of abortion coverage. All of the five health care reform bills approved in the 111th Congress violate this policy.
This is from a group, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, that supports health care reform but not the abortion funding in it. They say as well that this fails in the Reid bill, that there is explicit funding for abortion in this bill.
I thank my colleagues, particularly on the other side of the aisle, Senators NELSON and CASEY, for being major cosponsors of this amendment. They are the ones who look at this and say: I don't want this in the base bill. This should not be in the base bill. It doesn't belong in the base bill. The language should be different.
I also wish to note that most people across the country don't want this in the base bill. A majority of the country is opposed to the bill overall. They don't think this is the way we should go. They think it is the wrong way. But even people who support the bill itself by and large don't want Federal funding for abortion to be in this bill.
A Pew poll even showed that 46 percent of people who support health care reform want to see the radical abortion language removed, the Capps language in the Reid bill, and all pro-choice Republicans and several pro-choice Democrats supported the measure in the House that put Stupak language in that removed the Federal funding for abortion. The American people feel this way because they know that forcing Federal funding of abortion is fiscally irresponsible and morally indefensible. Those are the two central pieces we are discussing, the fiscal responsibility or irresponsibility of this and the moral indefensibility. At a time of hemorrhaging debt, the Federal Government being supportive and funding elective abortions flies in the face of trying to restrain or bend the cost curve down in this legislation. That is not us being fiscally responsible.
I have shown this chart before, but I think it is so striking. Back when we did do funding for abortions, we funded about 300,000 a year. How is that extra funding going to help us be more fiscally responsible? That is why a majority of the people, pro-life and pro-choice, are saying the Federal Government should not be funding this. I don't believe that is fiscally responsible. And it is morally indefensible.
Whether you are pro-choice or pro-life, we are having 300,000 children who are not going to be here that we are funding the elimination of. Under anybody's definition of looking at that, they would say that is morally indefensible for the Federal Government that has long debated abortion policy, has not debated abortion funding, that that is morally indefensible for us to do something along that line.
There are many issues to debate but thankfully Hyde has not been one of them we have been debating until now. I say to my colleagues the admonition we have had many times, whether you choose this day life or death, blessing or curse, why wouldn't we choose the life route on this one? Even if you have a close call or you are questioning this, why wouldn't we choose the route that says: I am not going to fund 300,000 abortions. I want abortion to be safe, legal and rare, as some people in this body, but that is not rare, 300,000. Why wouldn't we choose the life route that says this is a controversial issue sometime way in the past, not recently. We don't fund these things. So many people in America don't want their money used to pay for abortions. Yet in this base Reid bill, it is there. I urge my colleagues to vote in favor of the Nelson-Hatch-Casey amendment that puts into Hyde language that is the status quo that there is not taxpayer funding going toward abortion and to reject those who would put the Reid language forward that would take us back decades to an era when we did fund abortion procedures.
I yield the floor.
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