Federal Relations

May 13, 2015

NDAA PATRIOT Act Combo with an Abortion Chaser

Today, the House will vote on the rule to consider the NDAA. In a development, the Rules committee decided to combine the NDAA with two other pieces of legislation, namely HR 2048, the USA FREEDOM Act of 2015 and HR 36, the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.

HR  2048, the USA FREEDOM Act is a bipartisan measure that extends certain provisions of the Patriot Act that are scheduled to expire at the beginning of June.  Additionally, the measure modifies domestic surveillance authorities by prohibiting the National Security Agency’s (NSA) bulk collection and storage of telephone metadata and ability to collect other bulk data, requiring the NSA to obtain approval from the FISA court to examine the calling records of individual target telephone numbers on a case-by-case basis (before requesting the information from a phone company) and limiting the associated calling records of a telephone number that may be examined to two “hops” from the suspect’s number. No amendments will be considered on the measure including an amendment  once again offered to change the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and require a warrant to access stored emails, along with a handful of other anti-surveillance amendments from privacy minded lawmakers trying to beef up protections in the legislation.

While, HR 2048 is bipartisan, HR 36, the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is not.  The bill bans abortions in cases where the probable age of the fetus is 20 weeks or later and imposes criminal penalties on doctors who violate the ban. It provides exceptions in cases where the life of the woman is in danger, or in cases of rape or incest.

Originally, the measure was slated for House consideration in January but was pulled because of Conservative Republican women legislator’s objections over language requiring rape victims to report the crime to qualify for the exception. GOP leaders this week are putting forward a significantly modified version which drops the rape reporting requirement, and instead requires women to receive counseling or medical treatment for the rape at least 48 hours prior to the abortion procedure and to sign (along with the doctor and a witness) an informed consent form, and requires that a second doctor trained in neonatal resuscitation be present for abortions where the fetus has the “potential” to survive outside the womb, and if born alive requires that the infant be admitted to a hospital. The bill does still include similar reporting requirements for abortions for pregnancies resulting from incest.

A one technical amendment will be considered.

Democrats are expected to rally against the bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised his chamber will vote on the measure as well.

A vote on the rule to consider the NDAA will be a vote to consider HR 2048 and HR 36 as well.

While the White House has made clear its support of the surveillance bill, it has issued a veto threat for the abortion bill.