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Power Up: Hyde Amendment fight is coming to Congress

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with Brent D. Griffiths

Good morning & welcome back! Tips, comments, recipes? You know what's up. Thanks for waking up with us. 

Breaking: Botswana became the first African country to legalize homosexuality.

In seemingly inevitable news: Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich) "stepped down from the conservative House Freedom Caucus less than a month after becoming the first Republican member of Congress to say President Donald Trump has committed impeachable offenses," CNN's Haley Byrd and Kate Sullivan first reported. 

  • "I have the highest regard for them and they're my close friends," he told CNN. "I didn't want to be a further distraction for the group."
  • More from The Post's Mike DeBonis.

On The Hill

HYDE NOT: As abortion rights take center stage in the 2020 Democratic primary to beat President Trump, House leaders here in Washington are unlikely to allow a vote on a measure to roll back the Hyde Amendment.

Freshman Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) — along with Congressional Progressive Caucus Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) — last week introduced a measure to strip the Hyde Amendment from the Health and Human Services spending bill. Their proposal would ensure coverage for abortion under Medicaid, Medicare, and the Children's Health Insurance Program. 

A senior Democratic House aide now says that it's “unlikely” that a measure to eliminate Hyde will be allowed a vote on the floor. 

  • “The appropriators have been working with outside groups to keep expectations in check given the fact that the we have an [Republican] Senate and a [Republican] president,” a senior Democratic House aide told Power Up. “This amendment is unlikely to be made in order.”

Family feud: The decision is likely to spark more tension with rank-and-file Democrats who want to tackle abortion restrictions head on as GOP-led states around the country have clamped down on the procedure. It's the latest flashpoint between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and a restive caucus, some of whom want to initiate an impeachment inquiry into Trump.

Pressure has been mounting on Democrats in the 2020 field to stake out public positions against Hyde. Many of those Democrats are in Congress and will soon have to decide whether to stick to that stance as the amendment gets packaged into much larger spending bills, where opposition to it could have the unintended effect of derailing the bigger packages.

  • All of the Democratic presidential contenders now support eliminating Hyde. Including Joe Biden.
  • Presidential contenders Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), Seth Moulton (Mass.), Tim Ryan (Ohio) and Eric Swalwell (Calif.) have not ruled out voting for the spending bill, my colleague Mike DeBonis reported over the weekend. 
  • That spending measure also contains some signifigant measures that would actually “roll back Trump administration antiabortion policies, including restrictions barring health clinics from recommending abortion services and preventing U.S. foreign assistance to aid groups that perform or promote abortions,” per Roll Call's Jennifer Shutt.
  • “Biden wasn't the first time we thought about Hyde with this process . . . we made sure that we spoke with members and explained the difficulties in putting forward a bill that doesn't have the Hyde Amendment. It guarantees that you have a prolonged fight, so the best way to complete our work on time and in a responsible way is to keep the Hyde language in place. But that's not to say that it's not a really pro-choice bill,” a second senior Democratic House aide told us. 

Pressley, who is also the chair of the abortion access task force under the Pro-Choice Caucus, believes that Hyde has to go. 

  • “Massachusett's 7th Congressional District is 53 percent people of color and 40 percent foreign born — so it's not just a personal issue for her but also just a huge right for her constituents since we have a very diverse and unequal district — this is fighting for equity and justice,” Pressley's spokesperson told us. 
  • Some background: “Multiple studies show that when the Hyde Amendment took effect, the birthrate among women on Medicaid increased by an average of about 13 percent,” according to a 2016 study by the antiabortion Charlotte Lozier Institution, which suggests that the ban may disproportionately affect lower-income women.

Outside groups also lined up in support of the bill, despite fiercely lobbying 2020 candidates to oppose the Hyde Amendment: 

  • “While we are disappointed and we are going to continue to work against Hyde, there are huge wins in the bill — especially when you talk about protecting birth control access for 4 million people,” Erica Sackin, a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman, told Mike. 
  • NARAL Vice President Adrienne Kimmell applauded the Pressley, Jayapal and Lee measure. But she still supports the overall spending bill,  Hyde and all: “At the same time, we are looking at the real difference this funding can make for millions of women through important safeguards for reproductive freedom — such as increasing Title X family planning funds, eliminating abstinence-only funds, and getting rid of the domestic gag rule.” 

That kind of opposition makes a congressional fight against Hyde largely symbolic. And not everyone thinks it's a good fight for Democrats to pick.

'Profound error': Michael Wear, President Obama's director of faith outreach for his 2012 campaign, told Power Up that Biden made a “profound error” in reversing his decades-long position supporting Hyde.  

  •  “Far left, pro-choice groups have pressured these candidates to make a decision that will cost them votes, potentially cost us the White House and won't cause any policy outcomes because there is no policy outcome on getting this done,” Wear told us. 
  • “These groups have been playing this strategy since 2014 of leaving no room for nuance, no room for compromise, and yet it is at the tail end of this strategy that Roe v. Wade is under greater pressure than ever before,” Wear added. 

JON STEWART RETURNS TO THE HILL FOR 9/11 BILL: Former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart is back on the Hill today to once again push lawmakers to reauthorize the Sept. 11 Victims Compensation Fund -- at serious risk of running out of money before it expires in December 2020. In a sign of bipartisanship, legislation extending the fund indefinitely has the support of nearly 70 percent of the House and 38 senators.

  • Why the situation is so dire: “To date, the $7.3 billion fund has paid about $5 billion to roughly 21,000 claimants,” our colleague Devlin Barrett wrote in February, when the fund’s administrator made the announcement. “About 700 were for deaths that occurred long after the attacks. Now, faced with more than 19,000 additional unpaid claims, the math has become painful.” As a result, the plan announced it would cut future payouts in half and some by as much as 70 percent.
  • Stewart: The comedian played an instrumental role in the initial passage of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, named after a New York City police officer whose 2006 death from a respiratory disease he contracted from Ground Zero. Then “The Daily Show” host, Stewart dedicated an entire episode to why the bill was stalled in Congress in 2010. He has returned to the Hill and the public eye to push for its subsequent renewals ever since.
  • Likely passage: With 304 co-sponsors, there are more than enough votes to renew the fund, not to mention support from key members like House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and the panel’s top Republican Rep. Doug Collins (Ga.). Stewart will appear at the committee’s hearing about the legislation later today.
  • In the Senate: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), who help author the 2010 law, has 38 co-sponsors, including eight Republicans.  
  • How this works: The 2015 reauthorization passed as part of a massive bill to fund the government and it's very likely something similar will occur this time around, too. It's worth remembering, however, that the 2015 legislation became the subject of bitter fights.

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The People

FIVE YEARS LATER: Ta-Nehisi Coates revisited his article that changed the conversation surrounding slavery and legalized discrimination five years ago when he wrote “The Case for Reparations”. Sitting down with David Remnick, the two recorded a conversation for The New Yorker Radio Hour discussing the contours of reparation policy as it relates to the Democratic primary — and how the issue looks now compared to when Coates first wrote his piece for The Atlantic in June 2014. 

Coates said that Elizabeth Warren is “probably serious” when she talks about reparations and that she “just asked me to come and talk one on one with her about it” after “The Case for Reparations” was published. He has not talked to any other candidates about it. 

  • Recap: “The case I make for reparations is, virtually every institution with some degree of history in America, be it public, be it private, has a history of extracting wealth and resources out of the African American community. I think what has often been missing — this is what I was trying to make the point of in 2014 — that behind all of that oppression was actually theft. In other words, this is not just mean. This is not just maltreatment. This is the theft of resources out of that community. That theft of resources continued well into the period of, I would make the argument, around the time of the Fair Housing Act,” Coates told Remnick.
  • On 2020 candidates discussing reparations: " . . . It certainly is symbolic. Supporting a commission is not reparations in and of itself. It’s certainly lip service, from at least some of the candidates. I’m actually less sure about [this], in terms of the black vote — it may ultimately be true that this is something that folks rally around, but that’s never been my sense.”

The Investigations

MUELLER HEARING TURNS INTO A HISTORY LESSON: “Pro-impeachment Democrats are struggling to make their case for ousting President Trump to a wary public, with the Justice Department suddenly signaling a willingness to cooperate with Congress and the House’s first hearing on Robert S. Mueller III’s report veering into more of a historical lesson on Watergate,” our colleagues Rachael Bade, John Wagner and Mike DeBonis report. “The hearing underscored the problems Democrats face in trying to draw attention to Mueller’s findings as Trump repeatedly blocks his former White House aides from testifying and cooperating with requests for documents.”

  • “The ghost of Christmas past”: Republicans mercilessly mocked former Nixon White House John Dean’s age as they questioned why Democrats would call him as their main witness for a hearing about the Mueller report. “Here we sit today in a hearing with the ghost of Christmas past because the chairman of the committee has gone to the speaker of the House and sought permission to open an impeachment inquiry and she said no,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.).
  • The age gap: “In his opening remarks, Dean said the last time he testified before the House Judiciary Committee was July 11, 1974, nearly 45 years ago. Seven of the committee’s 41 members weren’t even born at that time, including Gaetz, who told Dean, ‘you sit before us here with no knowledge of a single fact of the Mueller report on a hearing entitled ‘Lessons of the Mueller Report,’ Rachael, John and Mike write.
  • Even some Democrats say the hearing was a flop: “Privately, several Democrats said they agreed with the GOP’s harsh assessment, wondering why Dean was called in the first place. The lawmakers and aides spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely discuss private conversations.” In short, as our colleagues write, there was no blockbuster moment in a hearing that hoped to spark one.

NADLER AND DOJ HAVE A DEAL: The Justice Department and Nadler reached a tentative deal for the department to turn over more documentation underlying the Mueller report, staving off a planned vote today to hold Attorney General Bill Barr in contempt of Congress. But it's unclear what exactly lawmakers will be able to access, but Nadler said the information included “key evidence.”

  • The details: The House will hold off on holding Barr in criminal contempt, but a vote holding Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn in civil contempt will continue as scheduled today.
  • A limited victory: “The deal represents a victory for House Democrats in their quest to focus public attention on Mueller’s report and the alleged presidential abuses of power they say the report documents,” Mike and Rachael report. “But it is a limited victory: It moves them no closer to securing testimony from Mueller or other figures, such as former White House counsel Donald McGahn, who could galvanize the country at an open hearing.”
  • More contempt votes are coming: The House Oversight and Reform Committee announced it will hold votes on Wednesday to move forward to hold Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt for refusing to comply with the panel’s subpoenas to turn over documents related to adding a question about citizenship to the 2020 census. The panel is pursuing both civil and criminal action.

In the Media