Dems Limp on Abstinence Funds?

Bill Scher

House leaders had been planning to let expire funds for abstinence-only education, a proven failure at getting teens to abstain from sex, CQ Today reported last month.

But last night, CQ reported that a House appropriations subcommittee is planning on increasing funds for a different pot of money for abstinence ed.

Why? According to CQ:

Lawmakers say the olive branch extended to Republicans increases the likelihood that the bill will pass the House with a veto-proof majority. It also sends a strong signal that Appropriations Chairman David R. Obey, D-Wis., will avoid controversial social policy changes this year in the interest of moving bills. …

The administration has said the president will veto spending bills that exceed his request, but Bush may not have the votes in Congress to back up his threat. “When it leaves the House, it may leave with insufficient ‘no’ votes to sustain a veto,” said subcommittee member Dave Weldon, R-Fla., who supports abstinence-only education.

The abstinence program money could also provide political cover to centrist Democrats made vulnerable to conservatives’ attacks by their leadership’s decision to let the mandatory pool dry up.

Liberal Democrats said they could live with compromising on abstinence-only education, which they generally oppose, if it means paving the way for more spending on domestic programs they favor.

“That’s a reasonable concession in light of the more than $10 billion” the bill contains in excess of Bush’s budget request, said Jesse L. Jackson Jr., D-Ill.

I’m sure these guys think they’re being pragmatic and savvy.

But this is a continuation of the “Failure of Compromise” hallmark of this Congress. As I wrote last month:

Time and time again, Democratic leaders have sought to accommodate the conservative Republican minority and craft compromise legislation. And in almost every case, it has led to bad or no results.

If this compromise goes through, more kids will continue to be miseducated about sex, damaging our public health.

There is logic to the saying: pick your battles. But this is a good battle to pick — showing the new Congress knows when a government program doesn’t work and doesn’t deserve funding.

If congressional leaders want to build trust for ideas where government funds are critical, they need to show they know the difference between good and bad government.

The appropriations subcommittee meets on this issue today at 2 p.m. ET. The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States is calling for folks to contact Obey and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi before then.

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