August 4, 1995 in Nation/World

House Cuts Billions In Social Spending Moderate Republicans Rebel Against Provision Allowing States To Deny Abortion Funds To Victims Of Rape And Incest

Janet Hook Los Angeles Times
 

In a triumph for the conservative Republican drive to shrink the federal government, the House approved a measure early today that would abolish dozens of education, labor and health programs, rein in agencies that regulate the American workplace and impose new restrictions on federal funding for abortion.

The vote was 219-208 with all but six Democrats voting against the bill. Also voting against the measure were 18 Republicans - mostly moderates who objected to antiabortion provisions included in the bill.

Passage of the $256 billion measure - the voting ended at 1:12 a.m. - had been in doubt because of divisions between moderate and conservative Republicans over abortion-related provisions. Bridging those divisions was a major test of the leadership of House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., who spent most of Thursday wheedling, cajoling and courting members from competing GOP factions who had threatened to bolt and join Democrats opposing the bill.

The massive spending bill, which provides funding for the departments of Education, Health and Human Services and Labor, had become a focal point in the fight between Democrats and Republicans over the shape, size and objectives of the federal government.

“Democrats just don’t get it,” said Rep. John Porter, R-Ill. “They don’t seem to understand that we have to get spending under control. We are going to get our fiscal house in order.”

But Democrats said the GOP budget-balancing drive is coming at the expense of the most vulnerable Americans.

“This is one mean and ugly piece of work,” said Rep. David R. Obey, D-Wis. “It would end the bipartisan commitment to education and to worker dignity.”

President Clinton has threatened to veto the measure, which he called a “body blow” to efforts to increase opportunities for children and workers.

“Under the guise of balancing the budget, we are consigning millions of Americans to a more limited future,” Clinton said Thursday.

Some of the bill’s most controversial provisions - such as its anti-abortion provisions and wholesale elimination of social programs - may face stiffer opposition in the Senate, where moderate Republicans and Democrats have more influence.

But while the Senate may shift spending priorities, the magnitude of the spending cuts would not be likely to change substantially. The Senate Appropriations Committee has decided to allot only about $1 billion more for these departments and programs than did the House.

As approved by the House, the bill includes $256 billion for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education. But more than three-quarters of the money goes automatically to Medicare and other entitlement programs, whose costs are not controlled through the annual appropriations process.

The focus of debate was the remaining $61 billion - almost 10 percent less than current levels - provided for dozens of non-entitlement programs, such as job training, college student aid and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The bill abolishes more than 170 education and labor programs and cuts spending in most others. It does, however, provide increases for selected programs, such as biomedical research and the Job Corps.

The measure treats the Corporation for Public Broadcasting more generously than some had expected, in light of GOP promises to eliminate federal subsidies for public radio and television. During floor debate Thursday, an amendment to eliminate the $240 million provided for the corporation - which would be an 8 percent cut - was easily defeated on a 286-136 vote.

The spending bill also is festooned with non-budgetary provisions designed to carry out central elements of the conservative agenda, including new restrictions on agencies overseeing worker protection laws and new limits on political advocacy by recipients of federal funds. Democrats failed, on a 232-187 vote Thursday night, to win approval of an amendment that would have killed the limits on political advocacy.

The bill also is home to many anti-abortion provisions, including one that would allow states to refuse to pay for abortions in cases of rape and incest under Medicaid, a health care program for the poor that is jointly financed by the federal government and the states.

The provision was added by the House Appropriations Committee in the form of an amendment sponsored by Ernest Istook Jr., R-Okla. Abortion-rights advocates tried to strike the provision during floor debate, but failed on a 215-206 vote.

During floor debate, Istook and his allies argued that the issue was one of states’ rights. States should be allowed to spend their Medicaid money as they see fit, they said, and should not be forced to pay for any abortion except in cases where the life of the woman is at stake.

“Let the states decide,” said House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas. “If there was one message coming from the last election it is that … the American people are fed up with Washington dictating to them.”

Opponents said the Istook amendment would limit poor women’s ability to get abortions when their pregnancies resulted from the most troubling circumstances. “Rape is a crime,” said Rep. Elizabeth Furse, D-Ore. “Let us not punish the victims of crime.”

Abortion-rights advocates also tried without success Thursday to strike another provision, authored by DeLay, that would allow medical schools to be accredited and receive federal funds even if they choose not to teach abortion. The vote was 235-189 to retain the provision.

The House handed those two vic tories to anti-abortion forces just a day after dealing abortion opponents a defeat by voting to preserve federal aid to family planning.

In the days leading up to the vote, Gingrich had to scramble to keep his party in line because most Democrats were expected to vote solidly against the measure. With Republicans holding only a 232-202 majority in the House, GOP leaders could not afford to lose many members when the bill came to a final vote. Gingrich had to quell rebellion on both the left and the right wings of his party.

Moderates threatened to bolt because of the bill’s many anti-abortion provisions and deep spending cuts. But several moderates returned to the fold after the House restored the family planning money.

But the surprise vote to add the family planning money infuriated conservative Republicans, some of whom were disappointed that Gingrich himself did not do more to kill the funds.

Gingrich was supposed to speak during debate on the issue, but he did not make it because he was conducting a town meeting with citizens of the District of Columbia.

xxxx BIG DAY IN THE HOUSE Key provisions of the House bill that funds the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education for 1996.

PROGRAMS ELIMINATED Low income energy assistance, $1 billion spent in 1995. Summer youth jobs, $871 million. Goals 2000, $372 million. No funds for office of surgeon general.

MAJOR PROGRAM CUTS Title I education aid for disadvantaged students, cut by $1.2 billion. OSHA, $48 million (enforcement cut by 33 percent; compliance increased by 20 percent). Head Start, $137 million. National Labor Relations Board, $53 million. Corporation for Public Broadcasting, $20 million (for 1998). Dislocated worker assistance, $378 million.

MAJOR PROGRAM INCREASES National Institutes of Health, $643 million. Breast and cervical cancer screening, $25 million.

MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS Permits states to deny Medicaid funding for abortions in the case of rape or incest. Prohibits research on human embryos outside womb. Bans OSHA from enforcing regulations dealing with ergonomics standards. Curtails the NLRB’s ability to seek court injunctions to restrain unfair labor practices. Prohibits any recipients of a federal grant from spending those funds on lobbying; also prohibits them from using more than 5 percent of their own funds on lobbying as condition for receiving federal funds. Bans enforcement of President Clinton’s order to deny federal contracts to companies that hire permanent striker replacement workers. Maintains current federal family planning program.

HOW THEY VOTED

Here’s how Northwest representatives voted on a bill cutting $9.3 billion in social spending. A “yes” vote is in favor of passage.

IDAHO Republicans - Helen Chenoweth, Yes; Mike Crapo, Yes.

WASHINGTON Republicans - Jennifer Dunn, Yes; Doc Hastings, Yes; Jack Metcalf, Yes; George Nethercutt, Yes; Linda Smith, Yes; Randy Tate, Yes; Rick White, Yes. Democrats - Norm Dicks, No; Jim McDermott, No.


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