Ghost Riders

Yesterday I noted that the House Republican appropriations measure for the rest of the fiscal year generally confirmed the post-sequester level of spending for most major budget categories, but contained several provisions boosting funds for assorted conservative pet rocks. As more people stare at the document, it’s also becoming clear it will have some “riders,” or non-funding-related policy initiatives that represent sops to the activist “base” for Republicans and poison pills for Democrats.

One of those “ghost riders” that has come back with a vengeance from last year’s political fights involves, of course, that great offense to patriarchs everywhere, the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage mandate. The Hill‘s Sam Baker reports:

A group of House Republicans said Tuesday that a bill to fund the federal government should include provisions targeting the contraception mandate in President Obama’s healthcare law….

“This attack on religious freedom demands immediate congressional action,” the 14 lawmakers wrote. “Nothing short of a full exemption for both nonprofit and for-profit entities will satisfy the demands of the Constitution and common sense.”

It will be interesting to see what House GOP leaders do with this demand. So far their interest in getting a leg up over the Senate in the ultimate negotiations over appropriations has kept them from placing too many howlers in their draft bill; aside from its inherently controversial nature, the problem with including a repeal of the contraception mandate in it is that it opens up the whole can of worms of Obamacare.

But as we will soon be reminded, for many, many House Republicans (and from a large percentage of conservative rank-and-file activists), you can talk all day and all night about “limited government” and spending cuts, but what really makes them get up in the morning and take up the political cudgels remains the culture wars, and the desire to go back to the days when fear of pregnancy was considered a reliable curb on women’s behavior. A large and relatively fast-moving vehicle like an omnibus appropriations bill is just too tempting a target for those who believe they are submitting America and its wicked people to God’s Will.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.