The bicameral tension among Democrats is coming to a head as Congress faces an ever-shrinking timeline to get some kind of deal—permanent or temporary—passed before doctors face a 20 percent payment cut from Medicare after March 31.
Pelosi disputes that the use of the Hyde Amendment in the measure she has worked on for weeks with Boehner constitutes an expansion. The funding for community health clinics at the center of the dispute already is subject to the Hyde Amendment, under an executive order signed by President Obama in 2010.
A House Democratic aide said Monday evening that Pelosi had worked with members of the House Pro-Choice Caucus to get additional language in the SGR package making clear that the Hyde language would expire after two years, when funding for the community health clinics runs out. After that, Congress could alter the language. But over these next two years, the aide said, the House will be controlled by Republicans. The language reflects the executive order Obama signed as part of the Affordable Care Act. "The status quo is the status quo," the aide said.
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But Senate Democratic leaders and scores of pro-abortion rights groups have said the change is much more serious than Pelosi is letting on. Because the funds already are subject to the Hyde amendment, the only point in adding this language is to insert it into U.S. code and expand the anti-abortion amendment's reach, opponents argue.
"If this language is included in the SGR with the agreement of the pro-choice members, it will embolden opponents to place it in other laws," the National Women's Law Center said in a review of the deal. "It is always much more difficult to remove language that has been enacted than to stop it in the first place. The best example of this is the Hyde provision itself, which was enacted 'just for one year' 37 years ago."
That this is coming on the heels of the Hyde Amendment fight in the Senate last week isn't helping Senate Democrats to see this from Pelosi's perspective. "In the absence of that, maybe the attitudes would have been a little bit different, but because of that there's a heightened sensitivity," a Senate Democratic aide said.
This is just the latest episode of squabbling between the two Democratic leaders. Back in December, Pelosi said she opposed the so-called "Cromnibus" strategy to fund the federal government, encouraging her members to oppose the bill that would undercut parts of Dodd-Frank. Reid said he supported it and worked with Pelosi's No. 2, Steny Hoyer, as well as the White House to pass the bill over her head.
When House Republican leaders floated a three-week continuing resolution to fund the Department of Homeland Security while they sought a long-term solution, Pelosi called it unacceptable. Reid said he was open to it.