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1992 Spending Bill Revised After Bush's Veto Is Upheld

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WASHINGTON--The House Democratic leadership late last week dropped a contentious abortion provision from a fiscal 2992 social- service spending bill that would provide $30.5 billion for Education Department programs.

The House was expected to vote on the bill, H R 2707, last Friday.

Earlier in the week, the House failed to override President Bush's veto of the original bill. The abortion provision that the President opposed would have prevented the federal government from spending money to enforce a regulation that bars non-medical personnel at federally funded family-planning clinics from discussing abortion as an option for pregnant women.

The House voted 276 to 156 on Nov. 19 to override the veto, a dozen votes short of the two-thirds majority that was needed. The bill received only four more votes than it did when it was first approved by the House earlier this month. (See Education Week, Nov. 13, 1991 .)

Among those who voted to sustain the President's veto was Representative Dale E. Kildee, the Michigan Democrat who chairs the House Elementary, Secondary, and Vocational Education Subcommittee.

An aide to Representative William H. Natcher, Democrat of Kentucky and chairman of the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations subcommittee, said the leadership withdrew the provision on abortion counseling from the bill because "it was considered to be the only realistic opportunity to get a bill passed and signed."

Nevertheless, he said, many House members will vote against the revised bill because they strongly support the counseling language, which was included after lengthy bipartisan negotiations.

"I think there will be a significant number who won't vote for it, but we hope that enough will vote to pass it," the aide said.

Democrats Pondered Options

The aide said the Democrats had considered three alternatives in addition to removing the abortion provision:

  • Some abortion- rights proponents argued for retaining the counseling provision and modifying the bill in other ways in an effort to pick up votes, such as revamping the bill's spending priorities or trimming the $4.3 billion in delayed obligations it includes. Many lawmakers had said the delayed obligations were fiscally irresponsible, and some of them said they originally voted against the bill for that reason.

But this tactic would have required the lawmakers who hammered out the bill to resume a painful debate over spending priorities and find other ways to bring its total into line with budgetary limits.

  • Proponents could have tried to alter the language overturning the so called gag rule to make it more palatable to the President and those who voted against the bill, but such negotiations had already failed once.
  • Finally, Democrats could have attached either the text of H R 2 70 7 or just the counseling language to a continuing resolution needed to keep the government operating. The current resolution was set to expire Nov. 26, and the Congress was faced with enacting another one if all appropriations bills were not cleared by that date.

If the President were to veto a continuing resolution, the government would shut down temporarily.

It was not clear as of late last week whether another continuing resolution would be needed.

The House vote was viewed as the deciding factor on the fate of H R 2707, as the Senate approved the bill earlier this month by a 72- to-25 vote, five votes more than needed to override a veto.

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