Spending Bill: No Cuts to Planned Parenthood, No Blocks on Syrian and Iraqi Refugees

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December 16, 2015; The Hill

The omnibus spending bill agreed upon by Congress yesterday and due for a vote by the end of the week includes no policy changes that would prevent Planned Parenthood or other abortion providers from receiving federal funds, despite all the threats made earlier this year by the Republican leadership. Democrats kept their promise not to be held hostage by GOP threats to hold up the bill unless Planned Parenthood were defunded, thus risking another government shutdown.

The government shutdown last year was very unpopular with the American voting public as are the plans to defund Planned Parenthood. in September, Republican political strategist Karl Rove called the attempt to shut down the government by October 1 if defunding were not accomplished a “suicide mission.” He wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

“¼ any Republicans who engineer a shutdown will be unwitting allies of the abortion movement,” not to mention that they would be risking a descent in the polls similar to or worse than the 28% plummet they experienced after the last shutdown.

He called the shutdown advocates a “suicide caucus” bent on self-promotion and willing to do damage to anti-abortion advocacy. Days later John Boehner (R-OH) resigned as Speaker of the House.

Eventually, the House Freedom Caucus, a group of about 40 conservative Republicans, scaled back its demands and struck out in its attempt to include language harmful to Planned Parenthood in the final spending bill.

Additionally, the omnibus spending bill included no language blocking Syrian and Iraqi from entering the U.S., though new Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) claims he has been given assurances that the issue will be roundly debated after January 1.

Some Democrats voted with Republicans for the imposition of temporary restrictions on these refugees, but they signed on to a letter to Speaker Ryan circulated by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) expressing resistance to having the issue linked to passage of the spending bill. The letter reads in part:

“Congress should not attempt to strong-arm the President into turning his back on Syrian families desperately seeking refuge from violence and persecution by threatening to shut down the government unless he acquiesces to their demands.”

Other provisions of note to nonprofits include:

  • A freezing of funding levels for the IRS, which is already widely considered to be understaffed. President Obama had recommended an increase of $1.7 billion.
  • Making permanent the $1,000 child tax credit and the earned income tax credit for low- and moderate-income workers.

— Ruth McCambridge