Late Thursday night, House Republicans failed to pass legislation funding Agriculture, Rural Development, and the Food and Drug Administration after more than two dozen moderate Republicans spoke out against a provision that would restrict access to an abortion medication.
The motion was defeated by a vote of 191-237, with 27 Republicans joined all of the Democrats in opposition.
The failed vote is a setback for Speaker Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who has been trying to get through the fiscal year 2024 appropriations bills before the federal funding deadline of September 30.
Passing the agriculture bill — or any of the other 11 appropriations bills — would not help Congress fund the government or avoid a shutdown by Saturday’s midnight deadline, but House GOP leaders are hoping that considering the single-subject funding bills will persuade hardline traditionalists to support a stopgap bill to keep the lights on in the capitol past the weekend deadline.
The unsuccessful vote on Thursday night, on the other hand, was not entirely unexpected.
The funding package was on shaky ground Wednesday when a group of Republican moderates indicated they would not support it because it included a clause that would restrict access to mifepristone, an abortion medication. The bill would repeal a Biden administration rule that would have allowed mifepristone to be marketed in retail pharmacies as well as via mail with prescription issued by a certified health care professional.
Representatives Nancy Mace (R-SC) and Marc Molinaro (R-NY) stated on Wednesday that they could not support the bill as written due to the mifepristone clause. Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY) told The Hill that the abortion pill wording was one of the reasons he would vote against the bill.
Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY) told reporters on Wednesday that his “position hasn’t changed” on the bill. He stated in July that “some states allow it to be mailed, some states don’t,” but that the decision should be left to the states and the FDA.
A group of Democrats proposed an amendment to remove the mifepristone clause from the bill, but it was not put up for a vote.
The agriculture budget plan includes a number of spending cuts that Democrats claim will damage recipients of programs such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
“Some 4.6 million people, including women and children would also receive severely decreased food and vegetable vouchers,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the Appropriations Committee’s ranking member, warned this week.