...ANDA Happy New Year?
If you thought your Christmas list was long, you should see Congress’s. Clocking in at about 1,000 pages, the House’s monster spending package – $1.014 trillion worth – will be “one of the last trains leaving the station” from the 113th Congress. Appropriators planned to release the bill text late tonight, which will help write the final chapter of this two-year experiment in partisan gridlock.
As usual, both sides are taking the debate right down to the wire – part of a regularly scheduled drama that seems to re-air every couple of months before the government’s funding runs out. But before members can switch off the lights and head home, there’s plenty of horse-trading and arm-twisting left to do in the sprint to a possible Friday recess. Even Mrs. “We-have-to-pass-the-bill-to-find-out-what’s-in-it” is threatening to actually read this proposal, a shock to anyone who remembers her infamous ObamaCare quote. “Let’s look at the whole package,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said without a hint of irony. But, as one Hill expert pointed out, “You have to not just be a speed-reader, but really be a Superman to get through all of it.”
With 11 appropriations proposals and one short-term Homeland Security budget to approve, most people are bracing themselves for January when Hill staff have had time to comb through the fine print. To help drag the “CRomnibus” over the finish line, congressional leaders seem to have given in to the temptation to kick some key battles into the New Year – instead of staying in town and fighting for pro-life measures to be included. One of those measures, the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA), could be the casualty of the holiday rush – leaving California voters in a major lurch until 2015. More than 100 members signed on to Rep. John Fleming’s (R-La.) letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) expressing concern over the state’s rule that every insurance company finance abortion-on-demand.
“This is a clear violation of federal law and another tragic attack on the First Amendment,” Congressman Fleming vented. “California is forcing individuals, churches, religious charities, and other employers to pay for health insurance that covers abortion services, even when such coverage violates their deeply held beliefs. By taking this action, California is forbidding the very existence of health plans that affirm life and that exclude abortion services. HHS is aware of this violation, and, under federal law, must not make federal dollars available to a state government that discriminates in this way. I’ve been joined by 132 other Members of Congress in writing to the HHS Secretary to seek the department’s action in bringing the California Department of Managed Health Care into compliance with federal law.”
Unfortunately, one of the only ways to correct the problem is hitching ANDA to a piece of must-pass legislation – like the CRomnibus. And now, with the window closing on the 113th Congress, this is just one of the issues getting sidelined. And it didn’t need to be. With the President’s party coming back with diminished numbers in January, negotiating now is their best crack at getting some of the stocking stuffers they want. A small pro-life concession wouldn’t have held up the bill, regardless of what Republicans believe.
Troop Survey Hardly a Morale Victory
Congress is about to turn a corner in the New Year, but for our military, the biggest battle is just finding the motivation to keep going. The only thing in shorter supply than funding is morale, as troops admit to the greatest burnout in recent memory. Stressed and stretched thin, most service members say they’re fighting another kind of enemy: distrust and dissatisfaction. For most troops, the last six years have been an emotional roller coaster – not only because of the external conflicts, but because of the internal ones that threaten to tear apart an already fragile fighting force.
In a new Military Times survey of active-duty troops, morale has bottomed out, as more service members say they feel “underpaid, under-equipped, and under-appreciated” – and over-exposed to an anti-faith, pro-P.C. agenda that’s tearing at the fabric of the nation’s proudest tradition.
Now, a half-decade deep into the President’s social experiment with the military, the scars are starting to show. On almost every indicator, “Troops report significantly lower overall job satisfaction, diminished respect for their superiors, and a declining interest in re-enlistment now compared to just five years ago.”
In this brave new world of sexual liberalism and religious censorship, the Pentagon seems at a loss to explain the sky-high assault and suicide rates. By not just eroding – but punishing – the values that most troops embrace, it’s no wonder morale is in a freefall. The question now is: what will Congress do about it?
Floral Quarrel: AG Threatens to Close Shop over Marriage
Lots of families take a trip to grandma’s house over Christmas – but in Washington State, Barronnelle Stuzman may not have a house to host people! In an outrageous lawsuit from the state attorney general, the Christian florist stands to lose everything – including her home – because of her beliefs on marriage. As if it weren’t enough that Barronnelle is being sued by a long-time customer, the state is bringing a second wave of accusations that the owner of Arlene’s Flowers somehow “discriminated” by turning down an order to serve a same-sex “wedding.”
Now, the florist of 40 years is being hauled before a court in a Christian inquisition that could cost her the business she spent decades building. Last Friday, a court heard the state’s arguments for suing Barronnelle as a private citizen – something officials can only do under very special circumstances. Although the judge didn’t issue a ruling on the state’s motion, another hearing is scheduled for December 19.
In the meantime, Barronnelle could very well be enjoying the last Christmas in her home if Washington manages to move the case forward. “In America,” her attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) argued, “the state shouldn’t jeopardize your personal assets just because it disagrees with you…” ADF Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner told reporters. “Plenty of other florists are willing to provide flowers for same-sex ceremonies, yet the state attorney general insists on going after – not only her business, but her personal finances as well.” And the Left says we’re the intolerant ones?
Obviously, this isn’t about flowers – but about exacting a price from anyone who holds a biblical view of marriage. It’s about forcing Christians to check their beliefs at the workplace door. And it’s about using the full weight of the government to punish Americans for exercising the freedom our Constitution guarantees them. Join us in praying for Barronnelle, for ADF, and for every Christian faced with the ultimate test of standing up for their faith.
This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.