House Democrats are likely to jettison family planning funds for the low-income from an $825 billion economic stimulus bill, officials said late Monday, following a personal appeal from President Barack Obama at a time the administration is courting Republican critics of the legislation.
Several officials said a final decision was expected on Tuesday, coinciding with Obama’s scheduled visit to the Capitol for separate meetings with House and Senate Republicans.
The provision has emerged as a point of contention among Republicans, who criticize it as an example of wasteful spending that would neither create jobs nor otherwise improve the economy.
Under the provision, states no longer would be required to obtain federal permission to offer family planning services — including contraceptives — under Medicaid, the health program for the low-income.
I can appreciate the political dynamic here. The Obama White House wants to get at least some bipartisan support for an economic stimulus package, and GOP lawmakers, Fox News, right-wing blogs and talk-radio, and even media figures like Chris Matthews and Jack Cafferty, are telling Americans the policy proposal is right out of the Little Red Book. It’s become a distraction, so it’s understandable that Democratic leaders prefer to just make the irritation go away.
But it’s nevertheless frustrating. The public actually supports family-planning programs; states have been screwed over on this for years; it’s an easy and straightforward approach to preventative, cost-saving healthcare; and as it turns out, it’s actually a pretty good stimulus.
By scrapping a good idea, it only reinforces the notion that Republican hissy fits will continue to dictate governing decisions, even when — especially when — the minority party is wrong.