How did Joe Biden come up with the idea of declaring a public-health emergency for abortion access after Roe got overturned? In an exclusive, Hot Air has obtained video of the White House strategy session in the wake of the Dobbs decision:
I’m kidding, of course. This is video of every Biden strategy session, although future senator John Blutarsky might be a bit too witty to accurately portray Biden.
Besides, as multiple media outlets report, few in Biden’s team are shouting “Let’s do it!” to the notion of politicizing health-related emergencies. Here’s the Washington Post, noting that Biden floated an idea that his own administration shot down on Friday:
President Biden said Sunday that he is weighing whether to consider declaring abortion access a public health emergency, a decision that would appease some within his party calling for such a move but would go against some in his administration who have said it is an unnecessary step. …
Some in his party have been calling on Biden to declare a public health emergency, a move that would make limited difference in the policies or actions he could take but also one that could elevate the issue and show how seriously his administration views it.
Some in his administration have supported the idea, saying it would bring more attention to the issue. Others have been uncomfortable making the declaration because it wouldn’t unlock significant new policies or resources[.]
CBS puts both together in its lead:
President Biden said Sunday he is considering declaring a public health emergency to free up federal resources to promote abortion access, even though the White House has said it doesn’t seem like “a great option.” …
On Friday, Jen Klein, the director of the White House Gender Policy Council, said it “didn’t seem like a great option.”
“When we looked at the public health emergency, we learned a couple things: One is that it doesn’t free very many resources,” she told reporters. “It’s what’s in the public health emergency fund, and there’s very little money — tens of thousands of dollars in it. So that didn’t seem like a great option. And it also doesn’t release a significant amount of legal authority. And so that’s why we haven’t taken that action yet.”
In other words, it’s a futile gesture. Presidents can declare national public-health emergencies (PHEs) via HHS, but … then what? They can spend HHS money on the emergency, but in this case they can’t spend any on abortions. The Hyde Amendment is a budgetary limitation imposed by Congress that prohibits federal monies from funding abortions, including and especially at HHS. Presidents cannot override that language without congressional intervention, which will assuredly not be forthcoming. That limitation hits almost every applicable benefit that a PHE unlocks. It might even backfire if a PHE unlocks certain drug-pricing controls, making it more expensive for some people to access medication.
It’s also a highly stupid gesture, especially now. The Biden administration and several blue-state governors continue to insist that COVID-19 still requires a PHE and some extraordinary interventions. Even beyond that, Biden and current Democratic leadership in Congress are arguing for more money to prepare for future PHEs. Using the PHE process in such a blatantly political manner will not only undermine public confidence in federal public-health institutions, it will politicize their funding and turn them into even bigger partisan footballs than they are at present.
Biden declaring a PHE would end up accomplishing nothing, especially in practical terms, and in political terms would be self-destructive. It would raise expectations of substantive change in the short term, create massive disillusionment when abortion extremists realize that it changes nothing, and at the same time demolishes what’s left of the standing of HHS with American voters. You couldn’t come up with a more futile and stupid gesture if Dean Vernon Wormer, Doug Niedermeyer, and Greg Marmalard formed a study commission to produce it.