NEW YORK — Members of the U.S. bishops’ conference pro-life arm say they view the Aug. 10 vote by the U.S. Senate to preserve the Hyde Amendment as an important sign that the provision still has bipartisan support.
In a near partisan 50-49 vote, Democrat Joe Manchin, a Catholic, joined all of the Republicans in voting yes to a budget resolution amendment late Tuesday night to preserve Hyde — a longstanding provision that prohibits taxpayer funding of abortion.
“I’m hopeful and praying hard for this and I’m very grateful that the Senate did the right thing,” Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore told The Tablet. “[The vote] is very important because it means this has to be considered and has to be dealt with in a very serious way and that gives me hope.”
The Senate ultimately voted to approve the $3.5 trillion budget resolution in the early hours of Wednesday, Aug. 11, after a marathon of amendment votes in what’s known as a “vote-a-rama.” The budget resolution now goes onto the House of Representatives for a vote.
The amendment to preserve Hyde — called the Lankford Amendment after Republican Senator James Lankford who introduced it — however, was non-binding and therefore won’t necessarily be included in the House of Representatives version, or any subsequent budget legislation.
Key points of the budget resolution, published by Senate Democrats on Monday, Aug. 9, include investments for families, including universal preschool and free community college.
If the budget resolution is passed by both chambers, it unlocks the ability for Democrats to pass comprehensive legislation addressing the issues above through reconciliation, which allows legislation related to spending, revenues, and the federal debt limit by a simple majority.
Democrats have a 220-212 edge in the House. The Senate is split 50-50, however, Vice President Kamala Harris would act as the tie-breaking vote. Therefore, even though the Lankford Amendment is non-binding, it’s viewed as a message from Joe Manchin to his constituents that the Hyde Amendment needs to be included if they want his vote.
“We just see this as a really important signal for the future,” Katherine Talalas, the USCCB assistant director of pro-life communications told The Tablet. “This is a sign that there is support [for Hyde], that it will be protected.”
In the event legislation makes it to the desk of President Joe Biden, the nation’s second Catholic commander in chief, without the Hyde Amendment, he has already stated his support for dropping the provision.
For months now the USCCB has been outspoken in its support for Hyde. Specifically, Talalas said, they’re focused on a proposed Medicaid expansion provision in the budget package that does not include the amendment.
In a statement, Bishop James Johnston of Kansas City-St. Joseph told The Tablet that the Lankford Amendment vote was a “victory, but we must continue to be vigilant and work for the ongoing effort to protect countless innocent lives.”
“I will continue as a member of the U.S. Bishop’s Pro-Life Activities Committee to join clergy and laypeople from across the country in sending a strong message that billions of taxpayer dollars should not be used to pay for abortion,” Bishop Johnston said.
Brian Browne, a political science professor at St. John’s University, told The Tablet with Manchin sending a “strong signal” by demonstrating his support for Hyde, it puts pressure on Democrats to “pick their battles.”
“There’s a lot of good things in the bill and I think Democrats really have to decide, do they plant their flag in the ground behind [Hyde] when democratic members of the Senate are in favor when poll after poll says Americans support it, and it’s been a bipartisan thing for 40-plus years?” Browne said.
Browne also noted that federal budget deadlines loom, and questions whether or not Democrats would risk a government shutdown over the Hyde Amendment with midterm elections in 2022.
A key vehicle in the USCCB’s advocacy for Hyde has been an online petition they put together to save. The petition, available through notaxpayerabortion.com has gathered over 145,000 signatures to date.
Archbishop Lori encourages Catholics to continue using their voice in support of Hyde.
“I’m very grateful to the Catholics across the United States who have supported this,” said Archbishop Lori, a member of the U.S. Bishops Pro-Life Activities Committee. “It is very important for us, as Catholics, as citizens, to voice our views to our elected representatives and to expect them to take our views seriously.”