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Senate Spending Talks Go Off the Rails Amid Disagreements on Abortion, Border Wall

Yuval Rosenberg

Senators racing to move appropriations bills for fiscal year 2020 stumbled out of the gate Tuesday, tripped up by disagreements over abortion-related “poison pills” and funding for President Trump’s border wall.

A session to mark up the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education funding bill was reportedly canceled by GOP Senator Richard Shelby, the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, after Senator Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat, told colleagues she would propose an amendment to block the Trump administration’s Title X family planning rule, which would prevent federal funds from going to health care providers that offer patients information about abortion.

Republicans said that was a “poison pill” and thus violated the terms of the budget deal lawmakers struck in July, which included an agreement to keep controversial policy riders out of the appropriations process. “They might think that’s not a poison pill, and we would deem it would be,” Shelby said, according to The Hill.

Lawmakers also clashed over funding for Trump’s wall, with Democrats pushing back against the administration’s plans to divert money previously appropriated to the Penatgon to pay for barrier construction. Democrats charged that Republicans were shifting money away from other domestic spending and reportedly were pushing for greater funding in the Labor-HHS-Education bill and a reduction in the proposed allocation for the Department of Homeland Security.

“Senate Republicans have decided to begin the appropriations process with a partisan plan to raid taxpayer dollars from health care programs, education, job training and our military to pay for an ineffective border wall that will do nothing to address the humanitarian crisis on our southern border,” a Senate Democratic aide said in a statement reported by Politico.

Why it matters: These fights will continue, this week and beyond. “The squabbling reinforces the likelihood that a stopgap spending bill will be needed through mid-November or early December, which House and Senate leaders are mulling as they face another government shutdown at the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year,” Politico said.

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