Washington View, March 2024

Written by Brian Dixon, Senior Vice President for Governmental and Political Affairs | Published: March 11, 2024

Resignations, Redistricting, a Rule, and Roe

The incredible shrinking majority

The already razor thin majority Republicans held in the House shrunk even more with the expulsion of George Santos (R-NY) and the resignation of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). Another Republican, Bill Johnson (R-OH) has announced that he will resign in the coming weeks.

The vacancy in New York will be filled in a special election set for February 13 (after our print deadline), with the Democratic candidate slightly favored to win. The declining majority means the Republican leadership can afford to lose even fewer votes on key measures. The far right “Freedom Caucus” continues to cause problems for the new Speaker and the ability of the House to move any legislation at all.

In the time since McCarthy was deposed as Speaker for agreeing to a short-term funding package, Congress has passed two more of those, with the most recent one set to expire in early March. As of now, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) has not faced a motion to remove him from the position, but some of the same people who brought down McCarthy have started grumbling about Johnson’s leadership.

It’s probably not a coincidence that several senior Republican members of the House have announced their plans to retire since.

Redistricting racket

The days of once-per-decade congressional redistricting seem long past. Alabama, Louisiana, New York, and North Carolina will all have new districts for the 2024 elections. A Republican supermajority in North Carolina drew new maps to eliminate several Democratic seats.

Both Alabama and Louisiana were found to have violated the Voting Rights Act by undermining Black voting strength, and each was ordered to create an additional Black majority district. In both states, two incumbent Republicans will have to face off against each other.

A New York state court ordered the legislature to create new districts, and it’s likely that that will result in an indeterminate number of Democratic pickups.

HHS issues new rule on “conscience”

On January 9, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a new rule governing conscience protections in health care provision.

Under the previous administration, a rule was promulgated that allowed health care providers to simply refuse to provide needed care to a patient or customer based solely on that provider’s personal objection.

Three federal courts found the rule to be unlawful. The new rule will ensure that people seeking care will be protected to the same degree as the provider and will make sure that they are able to access the care they need. When announcing the rule, Secretary Xavier Becerra said, “The Final Rule clarifies protections for people with religious or moral objections while also ensuring access to care for all in keeping with the law.”

White House marks anniversary of Roe

On January 22, the Biden-Harris administration took a series of steps to highlight the ongoing threat to reproductive health care and announced plans to protect and expand access.

The Vice President kicked off a Fight for Reproductive Freedoms tour in Wisconsin, where she reiterated the White House commitment to guaranteeing those freedoms to everyone. Referring to state abortion bans, she said, “This is, in fact, a health care crisis. And there is nothing about this that is hypothetical. Today, in America, one in three women of reproductive age live in a state with an abortion ban — one in three.”

Harris also highlighted the stories of several women and families who faced enormous challenges in their efforts to get needed care, and pledged opposition to any congressional effort to impose new federal abortion restrictions.

In Washington, President Biden convened a meeting of the White House Task Force on Reproductive Health Care Access, which heard directly from doctors navigating state abortion bans across the country.

The White House also announced new guidance to support expanded coverage of a broader range of contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act, as well as new rules to ensure that federal health insurance programs make enrollees aware of the contraceptive benefit.

The administration is also promising to continue to fight to guarantee the availability of emergency abortion care in the face of court challenges and to protect the right of people to travel between states for needed care.

Contact Brian: bdixon@popconnect.org