Heartened by this week's Supreme Court decision restricting federal abortion funding, abortion foes on Capitol Hill are planning another drive to prohibit the District of Columbia from spending its own funds to pay for publicly financed abortions, congressional sources reported yesterday.
Word of the move affecting the city's fiscal 1981 budget came as the District received another congressional setback in financing the current fiscal year. The city had hoped to get $61.8 million in supplemental funds this year to ease its budget crisis, but the lawmakers decided yesterday to grant a maximum of $38.3 million.
At the District Building, officials conferred in an apparently inconclusive effort to determine the impact of the cutback. Mayor Marion Barry had pinned his hopes for adverting a deficit of up to $172 million on receiving the full $61.8 million, along with invoking his own tax-raising and belt-tightening programs.
Meanwhile, a scheduling crunch as Congress prepared to recess for the July 4 holiday and the Republican National Convention forced the cancellation of a meeting scheduled yesterday by the House D.C. appropriations subcommittee to adopt its version of the city budget for the 1981 fiscal year. The city has proposed a budget of $1.5 billion supported in part by a $300 million federal payment, the maximum authorized.
One House source said the delay will provide time for right-to-life forces to plan their strategy to add a strict restraint against publicly financed abortions to the city budget. Such a ban would affect low-income women whose abortions are paid for by the city.
Although the District won limited home rule in 1975, Congress still must appropriate all funds for city operations. As part of this process, Congress frequently has included language in appropriations bills that restrict the ways in which the city can spend its money.
In each of the last three years, the House has added abortions restrictions to city appropriations bills, only to have them diluted in negotiations with the Senate. Language in the current District appropriations measure prohibits the District for spending any federal funds for abortions but permits it to use locally generated tax money.
The Supreme Court ruled this week that the federal government can bar the use of federal Medicaid funds to pay for most abortions.
Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), sponsor of the amendment that was the focal point of the Supreme Court case, said he plans to try to restrict all Medicaid abortions when Congress considers the appropriation bill for the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services later this year.
An aide to Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Calif.), who sponsored the version of the Hyde amendment that has been added to the D.C. budget in the House for the past several years said he will propose an even tighter measure this year.
One member of the House District appropriations subcommittee, Rep. Eldon Rudd (R-Ariz), said he would support such a move, but does not now plan to join in sponsoring it.
The $38.3 million supplemental federal payment for this fiscal year approved early yesterday by a House-senate conference committee would permit the city to pay for higher costs of energy, pensions and wages and continue the city-financed general public assistance program at its present level until Sept. 30.
The payment, while larger than $28.8 million voted by the House, was cut from the $45.3 million approved by Senate. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate D.C. appropriations subcommittee, said the cut was made because Barry failed to submit the valid list he had promised of $20 million in construction projects he was willing to cancel to win an increased federal payment. Leahy said some of the projects were too far along to be canceled now.
Leahy said $6.8 million of the $38.3 million payment would be jeopardized if the mayor does not submit a revised list canceling projects totalling that amount. City budget director Gladys W. Mack said District officials were baffled by Leah's action, and could not comment on it.
Leahy's office released a list of projects indicating that the senator considers a proposed new fire house and several sewer and air conditioning projects are dead, but that the renovation of Eastern and cooldge high schools and the construction of the Deanwood branch library in the Far Northeast were in his view, still alive.