Politics Magazine

GOP Loves Slipping "Poison Pills" Into Popular Bills

Posted on the 18 March 2015 by Jobsanger
(This image of a "poison Pill" is from The Huffington Post.)
What is a "poison pill" in political terms? It is a provision that a political party knows could not pass on its own merits, so they slip it into a bill that's very popular in the hopes that the other party will let it go because they want that bill to pass -- and it's a practice that Republicans in the 114th Congress dearly love.
They tried it with the Homeland Security funding bill (putting in "poison pills" that would overturn two executive orders of President Obama on immigration), but the Democrats stood firm and refused to pass the bill. The Republicans had hoped that Democrats would be blamed if Homeland Security was shut down because they wouldn't vote for the funding bill with the poison pills in it. They were wrong. The public blamed them instead, and they were finally forced to remove the poison pills so the bill could be passed.
Now they are trying it again. This time its a Senate bill that would punish human traffickers (and provide a way to force those traffickers to pay for the damage they do to their victims). It's a very popular bill, and the chances are the bill would probably pass unanimously except for one thing -- the GOP slipped a poison pill into the bill. It's a provision that would prevent any federal money from being spent to help poor women get an abortion.
The Republicans are claiming that Democrats knew this provision was in the bill when they voted with Republicans to pass it in committee. Democrats disagree. They say they were promised this provision would not be in the bill that went to the Senate floor, and would not have voted for the bill if they had known the GOP had slipped the poison pill into it. The Republicans are lying. There is no reason for the same Democrats that voted to pass the bill out of committee to now oppose it -- unless they didn't know the poison pill provision had been put back in the bill.
The Republicans are also claiming this is just the same provision that has been passed by Congress in the past (the Hyde amendment). That is also a lie. The Hyde amendment prevented tax money from being used for abortions. This new poison pill would expand the prohibition from just tax money to also include money the federal government collected in fines and fees.
Once again, the Republicans are hoping that public opinion will force the Democrats to give in and pass the bill with the offensive poison pills in it. So far that has not happened, and it is not likely to do so. The Democrats are now filibustering the bill and refusing to allow it to come up for a vote. On Tuesday, the GOP leadership tried to invoke cloture ending that filibuster. They needed 60 votes, but lost on a 55 to 43 vote -- so the filibuster continues.
Republicans know the trafficking bill could easily pass the Senate if they took out the poison pill provisions -- because it's a good bill and would help victims of human trafficking. But they seem to care more about their own political ideology than those victims. Now Majority Leader McConnell has come up with a new tactic he hopes will force Democrats to end the filibuster.
Senators were supposed to consider and vote this week on the approval of President Obama's selection to be Attorney General (Loretta Lynch). They have already delayed that nomination too long, just to irritate the president -- and now they say her nomination won't be considered until the trafficking bill is passed (with the poison pill provision). I doubt that will work either, since Democrats knew about McConnell's threat to delay the nomination before voting to keep the filibuster alive on Tuesday.
It's time for the Republicans to stop this dishonest and disgusting tactic of using poison pills to force acceptance of provisions they know wouldn't get passed on their own merits. I doubt that will happen though. Honesty doesn't seem to be a Republican value anymore.

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