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Politics & Policy

Manchin: Congress Should Fix COVID Bill’s Abortion Problem in Annual Spending Bill

Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.) speaks on Capitol Hill, December 1, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Before passage of the $1.9 trillion COVID-relief reconciliation bill, a majority of the Senate attempted to add Hyde amendment protections to ensure key streams of funding could not be used to directly pay for elective abortions. Democratic senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, and Tim Kaine of Virginia joined all Republican senators present to vote in favor of the measure. But the Senate parliamentarian had interpreted the complex “Byrd rule” that governs the reconciliation process to mean that the amendment needed 60 votes in order to pass. 

Rather than insist that problematic funding be stripped from the reconciliation bill and dealt with in the appropriations process (which is subject to 60 votes), Manchin, Casey, and Kaine all voted for final passage of the bill as it was written.

But Manchin tells National Review that he would like to see the Hyde amendment applied to the COVID-relief bill’s funding during the annual appropriations process:

National Review: Senator, on the reconciliation bill, you and Senators Casey and Kaine voted to put the Hyde amendment on there. The parliamentarian said it needed 60 votes. So it got thorough without that [Hyde] language on there. Is that an issue that can be fixed retroactively in the appropriations process? 

Manchin: You’re talking about the Hyde?

NR: Yeah, the Hyde—

Manchin: I hope. We’re gonna try. We should have the same language we’ve had in the past. 

NR: So you think it could be applied to the COVID money in the appropriations process?

Manchin: Well, it should be. We should have the Hyde amendment. The Hyde amendment’s something I’ve always supported. It’s been [inaudible]. It’s also been in every other piece of legislation we’ve ever had. 

When asked why he was able to vote for final passage of the reconciliation bill without the Hyde amendment attached to it, Manchin said he didn’t want to let “the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Manchin, who made his comments Thursday afternoon in the Capitol, declined to take more questions on the topic.

The new $1.9 trillion COVID-relief package includes various pots of money that could be used to directly fund abortion. There’s an extra $8.5 billion in a “provider relief fund” that Health and Human Services secretary Xavier Becerra could use to legally provide direct federal funding of elective abortions. There are also hundreds of billions of dollars in bailouts to state and local governments, along with hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid. The Hyde amendment (also known as the Helms amendment when applied to foreign aid) was attached to each of these funding streams in the COVID-relief bills that passed Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2020.

Several studies have found that taxpayer-funding of abortion increases the number of abortions performed. By one estimate, the Hyde amendment has saved more than 50,000 lives a year since it was first applied to the Medicaid program in the late 1970s.

For more than four decades, Joe Biden supported the Hyde amendment and argued it protected the conscience rights of tens of millions of Americans. Under pressure from Democratic rivals and progressive activists, Biden abandoned his support of the Hyde amendment during the Democratic presidential primary.


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