Congressional Republicans have renewed an effort to overturn the Department of Veterans Affairs' recently implemented abortion policy.
On Wednesday, GOP lawmakers in the House and Senate reintroduced a resolution to reverse the policy, using a process that could force a vote in the upper chamber even though the Senate is controlled by Democrats.
In September, the VA announced it would for the first time offer abortions in cases of rape, incest or where the life or health of the mother is at risk from the pregnancy. The change came in response to the June Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization that overturned Roe v. Wade and allowed states to ban abortion.
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While the GOP measure still faces tough odds passing the Senate, the resolution signals that Republicans are digging in for a fight against the VA policy, and will pursue a vote that would put lawmakers on record about the issue.
"No taxpayer should be forced to pay for abortion services that disregard the will of millions of Americans in states with legal protections for life, rightfully upheld by the Supreme Court last year," Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., the resolution's lead Senate sponsor, said in a statement. "The interim final rule highlights this administration's willingness to ignore the law and exploit limited federal resources to serve their extreme abortion agenda."
The House version is sponsored by Rep. Michael Cloud, R-Texas.
While the VA maintains it has the authority to provide abortion services under a 1996 law that requires the department to give "needed" medical care to veterans, Republicans argue the policy violates a 1992 law that directed the VA to provide reproductive health care except for "infertility services, abortions or pregnancy care" unless that care is needed because of a service-connected condition.
Tuberville and Cloud's resolution was introduced under the Congressional Review Act, or CRA, which provides a mechanism for Congress to overturn actions the executive branch takes through the federal rulemaking process, which was the process used for the VA's abortion policy.
In order to force a vote in the Senate, at least 30 senators need to sign onto what's known as a "discharge petition." As of Wednesday, 26 GOP senators have co-sponsored the legislation, including Senate Veterans Affairs Committee ranking member Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan.
The CRA also sets the bar for advancing the resolution in the Senate at a simple majority, rather than the 60 votes needed for most legislation in the upper chamber. Still, Democrats hold a 51-seat majority, and President Joe Biden would likely veto any resolution undoing the VA policy, meaning a two-thirds majority would be needed to get the resolution into law.
Tuberville and Cloud previously introduced the resolution in December, but not enough time was left in that congressional session to consider it. The reintroduced House version has 40 co-sponsors, including House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Mike Bost, R-Ill.
When Republicans first introduced the measure, the VA said it remained committed to providing veterans "the full range of reproductive health services to ensure their health and well-being."
"That is our commitment to women veterans as they deserve nothing less than access to world-class reproductive care when they need it most," VA press secretary Terrence Hayes said in a December statement. "That's what our nation owes them, and that's what we at VA will deliver."
-- Rebecca Kheel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @reporterkheel.
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