Daines founded the Senate Pro-Life Caucus in 2019. While the House has had a pro-life caucus since 1981, co-chaired by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Daines told CNA he was “surprised” at the lack of a Senate caucus when he arrived in the chamber in 2015.
As caucus chair, Daines helped circulate a letter in July, 2019 asking President Trump and congressional leaders not to approve spending bills that had pro-abortion amendments.
Democrats had targeted must-pass government funding bills in attempts to increase abortion funding. Earlier in the summer, some House Democrats sought a last-minute repeal of the Hyde Amendment in an appropriations bill, and later in September, Democratic senators tried to permanently repeal abortion funding restrictions in appropriations bills.
The Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funding of elective abortions, and has become law each year since 1976 as an attachment to appropriations bills.
Taxpayer funding of abortions is a top concern of pro-life groups in the new Congress. Democrats could use a COVID relief bill to create new funding streams for health care—such as funding for health clinics and subsidized health plans—that do not have prohibitions on the money going to fund abortions.
Daines said he will be circulating a letter to gather pledges by fellow senators to uphold the Hyde Amendment, which House Democratic leadership has promised to repeal.
He aims to find a “filibuster-proof” group of at least 41 senators who will promise not to support spending bills repealing the Hyde Amendment. Senate rules normally require 60 votes to end debate on a bill and bring it to a vote in the chamber.
“I’m not optimistic that we will find Democrats joining us. That doesn’t mean we will not give up, but I’m not optimistic,” Daines said.
However, senators have previously used the process of “reconciliation” to pass budget-related items with only a simple majority of votes. Daines admitted he is concerned that Democrats will try to use this process, needing only 50 votes plus the tiebreaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris to pass an appropriations bill without Hyde Amendment provisions.
Also on Thursday, President Joe Biden issued an order allowing for U.S. funding of international pro-abortion groups. Biden’s presidential memorandum overturned the expanded Mexico City Policy, which bars U.S. funding of such groups in family planning funding and global health assistance.
“This is a result of Planned Parenthood spending millions of dollars to get President Biden elected, and now they’re cashing in,” Sen. Daines said.
When the Trump administration in 2017 had reinstated the bans on funding of pro-abortion groups, the International Planned Parenthood Federation withdrew from U.S. assistance rather than comply with the prohibitions on performing and promoting abortions.
“President Biden rewarded the abortion industry, and he’s using taxpayer dollars to create a slush fund to line their pockets,” Daines said.