Abortion Access Tops House Agenda as Congress Returns From Recess

Lawmakers start shuffling back to Washington on Monday after a two-week break and will commence the first round of legislative business since the Supreme Court overturned nationwide abortion rights.

The Democratic-run House will tee up two measures aimed at legalizing abortion access, while Senate Democrats will negotiate a new Medicare funding package that would raise taxes on the wealthy.

A top Democratic aide told the Washington Times the House will take up two bills aimed at maintaining abortion access nationwide in response to new state laws restricting the procedure following the high court decision. 

In the Senate, Democrats will intensify talks with moderate holdout Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia seeking an intraparty deal on a funding and tax package. It may also include a plan to lower prescription drug costs.

The Senate Democrats’ dealmaking is expected to be intense with just a few weeks before Congress’ August vacation.

In addition to House and Senate floor action, the House Jan. 6 committee will hold a seventh public hearing Tuesday. The hearing’s focus this time will be on former President Donald Trump’s ties to “extremist groups,” including the far-right Proud Boys, who violently pushed their way into the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Senate Democrats, meanwhile, will be hunkered down in intense negotiations they hope will lead to a deal to pass a scaled-down version of President Biden’s failed “Built Back Better” spending bill. That measure failed to win enough support from the Senate’s moderate Democrats, namely Mr. Manchin.

The new package would shore up Medicare with money raised from a 3.8% tax on pass-through income from those making more than $400,000 a year. Democrats say the new tax would eliminate a loophole that has protected the wealthy from paying taxes on certain business income. 

Democrats hope to broaden the deal with a plan they are now finalizing to lower Medicare prescription drug prices. The legislation would authorize the government to negotiate certain drug costs. Opponents say the drug proposal would stifle innovation by forcing pharmaceutical companies to lower prices. 

Senate Democrats are also negotiating with Mr. Manchin for a plan to address climate change through green energy tax credits and other provisions, but no deal has been reached. 

While no Republican is expected to sign onto the package, Senate Democrats would use a budgetary tactic to pass it with 51 votes instead of the usual 60 votes. The move will require support from all 50 of the chamber’s Democrats, including Mr. Manchin, and the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris.

Mr. Manchin has not agreed to any part of the package.

“Senator Manchin has repeatedly expressed his concerns about rising inflation, a pending recession and the state of American energy security,” a Manchin spokesman told The Times. “He continues to work in good faith to see if there is a pathway forward to shore up domestic energy production and reduce emissions, lower healthcare costs for seniors and working families, and ensure everyone is paying their fair share of taxes.”

Democrats, who control the House chamber, will have an easier time passing a pair of abortion bills, although the legislation will almost certainly stall in the Senate.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, will bring up legislation authored by fellow Democrat Judy Chu, also of California, that would establish a statutory right to abortion and prevent states from imposing limitations, bans or requirements for those seeking the procedure. 

The House will also consider legislation that would prohibit the punishment of women who cross state lines to obtain medical services including but not limited to abortion.

Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland and fellow Democrats announced the bill on Thursday in response to pro-life groups that are drafting model legislation for state legislatures that would prohibit women from crossing state lines to obtain an abortion. 

The Raskin bill would block states from imposing an abortion travel ban. 

“This important legislation defends the time-honored right to travel across state lines, including for the purpose of obtaining an abortion,” Mr. Raskin said. “We will not allow extremists to dismantle this basic freedom.”

The two abortion measures are expected to easily pass the House but face an impossible hurdle in the Senate, where 10 Republicans would be needed to advance the bill under the chamber’s 60-vote rule. 

The House passed the Chu legislation in September but it was blocked by Senate Republicans in March. 

The two measures are more likely to serve as messaging opportunities for Democrats who hope to utilize the Supreme Court’s abortion decision to galvanize their base in the Nov. 8 elections. 

“It is clear from how Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell stacked the Supreme Court that elections have ramifications,” Mrs. Pelosi recently wrote to fellow Democrats.  “It is essential that we protect and expand our pro-choice Majorities in the House and Senate in November so that we can eliminate the filibuster so that we can restore women’s fundamental rights – and freedom for every American.”

Reporting by The Washington Times.