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March 24, 2015


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Noel, no. It's silly to pretend that this, of all things, is when the Democratic Party goes base favoring and is anywhere near as insane as its counterpart.

Additionally, if the Hyde Amendment is already law, why is this additional language necessary, but as part of the GOP's base service to the Christian Right? The actual language in the amendment to the bill expands the power of the Hyde Amendment without time limit and with regards to fines and other money recovered from traffickers for the use of victims reproductive health.

Since the Democratic Party is pro-choice historically and opposes the Hyde Amendment, this doesn't scan as base servicing like Terri Schiavo, and you know it. (Since funding reproductive health has demonstrably good public policy outcomes, I'm not even sure why you thought this was crazy in the first place.)

A more plausible case could be made for all the stuff about Constitutional Amendments to undo Citizens United, Not Terrified, or any of the other ideas, like doubling down on the Establishment Clause. Because none of those has a chance to become law and just serve as a sort of emotional gratification, like the Federal Marriage Amendment.

But obviously, this amendment was GOP base servicing, since it gives cover to people afraid of being primaried. C'mon, man, what's gotten into you?

Here's the issue Noel.

The Hyde Amendment is not permanent.

Every year there's a big fight over things, and Democrats usually settle down and accept the policy rider on the annual appropriation bills for the relevant agencies. No change from the status quo. But it's a policy rider for the year, not permanent law.

Democrats are able to assure themselves that this is just for the next year and they can always fight another day.

Republicans proposed making the restrictions permanent in the underlying bill. And supposedly did so in a jerkish way that offends the gentleman's agreement world of the Senate. Whatever, grow stronger.

Democrats and pro-choice advocates are faced with a choice of going along with making the Hyde Amendment permanent in law, or blocking this bill.

Now your argument is that this is the exact sort of program that Democrats shouldn't worry about conceding on, the Hyde Amendment doesn't change anything, it's just symbolic.

Well they call them wedge issues for many reasons, because this could be the wedge. Of course this is a situation where the Hyde Amendment is just symbolic, that's why Republicans are fighting over it too. Force it in, arguing it doesn't change anything, but then use it as precedent in the next fight. And the next fight will be over a similar situation in which the Hyde Amendment itself becoming permanent doesn't change much. And then the next fight, and the next fight. And pretty soon you have a patchwork of some areas where we have a permanent Hyde and others that don't, so why not be more consistent and push for permanent everywhere ...

Pro-choice advocates see this as a slippery slope and are trying to make a stand. You can still disagree with that, but I don't know if I'm comfortable saying it's crazy base world. I suspect that if you look back at the issue of permanent vs. temporary you'll be a little bit more sympathetic.

To note how Democrats really deal with this, look over at the House, where Nancy Pelosi has just finished negotiating a health care deal with the Republicans that, among other things, extends children's health care funding for two years, but includes the Hyde Amendment ... for two years, not permanently. And pro-choice advocates are absolutely fine with it.

The situation is actually a little bit more interesting (read: subtle) than you give it credit for.

The Democrats argument is that this is actually a move to extend the reach of the Hyde amendment. The Hyde amendment currently only applies to federal funds (read: taxpayer money). The victim fund set up by anti-trafficking bill is NOT funded by federal funds, it is funded by the fines and fees on the trafficking criminal and organizations. This means it does not fall under the Hyde Amendment. The way that the law has been rewritten implies that the Hyde Amendment applies in this case because the government is handling the transfer. This could be used in future legal arguments to expand the scope of the Hyde Amendment. Now, this is a strategically easy law in which to put this expansion of scope given that all those it applies to can claim exemption under the case of rape, incest, or threat to life - but that is not the case for all federally run (but not necessarily funded) programs.

I have no idea whether development, humanitarian aid, or women's rights people were consulted here. Probably not -- as a general rule, nobody at the Congressional level pays much attention to us. (Not sulking, that's a plain fact.)

I will note that the history of GOP ideological interventions in US humanitarian assistance is not very encouraging; see, e.g., the Mexico City Policy, aka the "global gag rule". That one prohibited USAID health programs from even mentioning abortion, and also prevented USAID from giving funds or assistance to foreign NGOs that "promoted" abortion. We won't even discuss the GOP bans on support for needle exchanges or the "anti-vice pledge" enforced by the Bush administration. (Okay, a little. That was the one where you couldn't give assistance to a foreign NGO unless the NGO signed a pledge saying they explicitly opposed prostitution. Which, yeah, no, jackasses -- huge swathes of anti-AIDS and anti-trafficking work involve working directly with prostitutes.)

So while the odds are that nobody consulted development professionals, I can say that *as* a development professional, my spinal reflex to any GOP intervention is teeth-bared suspicion. That's unconnected to my position as a card-carrying member of the base. Kind of the other way round, actually -- part of the reason I'm in the base is that I had a close-up view in the early 2000s of how badly the GOP was fucking up development.

Doug M.

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