Lawmakers to try to overturn Bush abortion order
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A bipartisan group of pro-abortion rights members of Congress said Tuesday they will employ a rarely used law to try to reverse an executive order by President Bush withholding federal funds from international organizations that engage in abortion-related activities.
"We're taking this step today because the global gag rule is an ill-conceived, anti-women, and anti-American policy," Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said at a press conference.
Anti-abortion Republicans, who support the order, doubted the legislative strategy would succeed. They accused Democrats of mounting a public relations offensive aimed at embarrassing Bush in retribution for his support of a similar congressional effort to overturn Clinton administration regulations on workplace safety. (More on workplace regulations repeals)
"Democrats are stinging over ergonomics," said Terry Holt, an aide to House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas.
The abortion rights group, led by Reid and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, and Republican Sens. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Olympia Snowe of Maine, will try to overturn the executive order by using the Congressional Review Act, a 5-year-old law designed to speed repeal of executive orders Congress deems unworthy.
The group said they expected the bill to pass the Senate but that prospects in the Republican-controlled House were less promising.
"My own view is that it has a very slim chance of being scheduled on the floor," Armey told reporters.
Even if the group clears that hurdle, it is unlikely Bush would sign a bill overturning his own executive order.
"We're not overly optimistic," said Rep. Nita Lowey, D-New York, who is managing the effort in the House.
Lowey said House supporters have considered forcing the issue through a "discharge petition," which would require Republican leaders to schedule a vote.
Instead, she said, a bipartisan group of supporters will meet with House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, in hopes of convincing him to schedule the bill.
Lowey said she believes there are enough votes in the House to win passage.
Bush set off alarms in the abortion rights community when he signed the executive order February 15 that withholds federal money to international groups that perform abortions or provide family-planning counseling and referrals.
Opponents called the Bush edict a "global gag rule." The issue generated recurring fights between congressional Republicans and President Clinton during his two terms -- one Clinton won in budget negotiations at the end of his second term.
The Congressional Review Act allows any senator to bring up legislation to overturn a regulation or an order within 60 days of its effective date, provided the senator gets 30 signatures supporting it. The legislation is limited in debate and is protected from a filibuster.
The Senate sponsors said they have not decided when they will bring up the legislation, but rules give them until mid-June to do so.
GOP lawmakers seek to restrict who can dispense abortion pill
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