- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 6, 2021

President Biden now says he’s prepared to sign the proposed $3.5 trillion social-spending bill whether the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funding for abortions, makes it into the package or not.

“I’d sign it either way,” Mr. Biden told reporters late Tuesday, adding that he wants to get the bill passed.

Despite the president’s suggested indifference about Hyde, the amendment could be a roadblock between liberal and moderate Democrats, who disagree on whether to include it or get rid of the amendment.

Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a key swing vote in his party, said nixing the amendment would be a dealbreaker for him.

“We’re not taking the Hyde Amendment off. Hyde’s going to be on,” Mr. Manchin told National Review last week. “It has to be. It has to be. That’s dead on arrival if that’s gone.”

Support from all 50 Democratic senators is needed to pass the bill, also known as Mr. Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan.

No Republicans are expected to support the measure that would allocate funding to expand social safety-net programs such as family leave and child care.

But liberal Democrats in the House are also adamant about getting their way on the amendment, which they want to remove completely.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state, who chairs the influential Congressional Progressive Caucus, said on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday she would not support a bill that includes the Hyde Amendment.

“This is a negotiation and we’ve got to continue to move this forward but the Hyde Amendment is something that the majority of the country does not support,” Ms. Jayapal said.

The Democrat added that it is “nobody’s business” to know what decisions women make with their pregnancies.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Massachusetts Democrat, previously praised Mr. Biden in May after he pushed to remove the Hyde Amendment from his 2022 budget.

Ms. Pressley, a member of the far-left “Squad,” cited her own personal agenda as a legislator of trying to eliminate the Hyde Amendment at the local level on the Boston City Council and in Congress.

“Removal of the Hyde Amendment has been a longstanding priority for me,” Ms. Pressley said in a statement in May.

Connor Semelsberger of the pro-life Family Research Council said the differences, particularly between Mr. Biden and Mr. Manchin, starkly show the president’s political evolution over the years.

Mr. Biden, who is Catholic, previously opposed most federal funding for abortion services while serving as a senator for his home state of Delaware.

Joe Biden was in the same camp as Joe Manchin, a longtime pro-life Democrat, Catholic upbringing, and has always expressed personal opposition to abortion,” Mr. Semelsberger said. “But, [now] I think there’s a stark contrast between the two, and it’s interesting to see these negotiations play out.”

Democrats who openly identify as pro-life have largely decreased within the party, with the exception of Mr. Manchin and Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas, who is considered one of the most conservative members of his caucus.

A January poll by Marist and the Knights of Columbus found that 58% of Americans say they’re opposed to taxpayer funding of abortion, compared to 38% who support it.

No specific polling was done on the Hyde amendment itself, but 64% of Americans who identified as “pro-choice” said they opposed tax dollars going to fund abortions abroad.

The poll surveyed 1,173 adults between Jan. 11-13 and had an error margin of +/-3.5.

Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, said members who supported nixing the amendment were not considering the desire of the broader public.

“I think the Hyde Amendment has had bipartisan support for decades,” Ms. Day said. “Unfortunately, right now, the U.S. Congress is out of touch with the reality of the rest of the country on this issue.”

Ms. Day also said she was disappointed in Mr. Biden’s response to the amendment, accusing the president of being pressured into taking a more open stance on abortions.

“We need people like Senator Manchin and Henry Cuellar who will stand up for what’s right and not cave to the mob. And that’s essentially what Joe Biden is doing,” Ms. Day said.

But Antjuan Seawright, a South Carolina-based Democratic strategist, argued that Mr. Biden’s stance attests to his desire to get a broader victory for his administration, while also appeasing the various wings of his party.

“I think everything’s OK considering that the president wants a win,” Mr. Seawright said. “He wants to be as inclusive as possible, both in the short and the long term. So, I think you have to consider that.”

Mr. Seawright said he doesn’t think the Hyde Amendment will be a major roadblock for most Democrats moving forward, and is likely to be outweighed by more significant aspects of the bill.

“For some, it could be a factor, but I don’t think this is going to be the [decisive] factor,” Mr. Seawright said. “At the end of the day when you have something so massive and so significant to the American bloodstream, I don’t think one thing or another is a ‘stop’ or ‘go.’”

• Mica Soellner can be reached at msoellner@washingtontimes.com.

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