House leaders are trying to stem a minor revolt against the omnibus appropriations bill by a group of antiabortion members concerned that the bill does not include strong enough conscience protections for health care providers.
The group is unlikely to sway ultimate negotiations over the massive spending bill, but the rift shows how sensitive the negotiations are, and portends more headaches for a Republican Congress next year from members being pressured by single-issue groups.
Reps. John Fleming and Joe Pitts, cochairmen of the Values Action Team, a group of antiabortion members, are threatening to withhold their votes if appropriators do not strengthen language in the bill banning funds from being used on abortion services.
Members of the group met separately with Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers on Thursday and huddled with Majority Whip Steve Scalise on Wednesday to make their push. Pitts also spoke by phone with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell before the Thanksgiving break.
The push comes in light of a standoff in California between Gov. Jerry Brown and institutions that do not want to provide abortion coverage. In August, Brown's Department of Managed Health Care reclassified abortion as a "basic health care service," meaning that it must be included in all state health plans.