Senate Blocks Mike Lee’s Push to Force Vote on Defunding Planned Parenthood

Rick Bowmer/AP
Rick Bowmer/AP

Sen. Mike Lee’s attempt to force a vote in the Senate that would defund Planned Parenthood was blocked Sunday by some of his Republican colleagues.

Lee attempted to attach an amendment to the highway bill that would end all federal funds for Planned Parenthood in the wake of undercover investigative videos that showed the abortion industry giant’s involvement in the harvesting of body parts of aborted babies for sale to biotech companies.

As The Hill reports, the Utah senator was rebuked by his colleagues, and his amendment was rejected by the chamber’s chair who said it was not relevant to the highway bill. Nevertheless, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell allowed two amendments to the highway bill that were also not germane—a repeal of Obamacare and a reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank—at the same time he blocked all others.

Lee, Sen. Ted Cruz, and Sen. Rand Paul have been openly critical of McConnell’s procedure—known as “filling the tree”—for the highway bill, which they said was done to block a vote to defund Planned Parenthood.

“The so-called Republican leader led the effort to continue the taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood,” Cruz said about McConnell on the Senate floor on Friday. “It makes clear that the McConnell-Reid leadership team is united in favor of big government spending, and debt and power.”

“I believe in the power of truth, and what I intend to do is continue serving 27 million Texans and standing up and speaking the truth,” Cruz continued. “The truth is had the majority leader not opposed us we could have had a binding vote on defunding Planned Parenthood.”

Cruz was a guest on conservative host’s Rush Limbaugh’s radio show Friday where he discussed his criticism of McConnell:

Today the Senate took up the Export-Import Bank, a classic example of cronyism and corporate welfare. The leader of Senate Republicans, Mitch McConnell, went to the floor and demonstrated that he had lied both to the American people and also to every Republican senator, including me. Back when we were having the fight over trade promotion authority, I asked Mitch McConnell directly if he had cut a deal to reauthorize this cronyism and corporate welfare in order to try to get the votes, and he looked at me, he looked at all 54 Republican senators, and he said flat-out, “There is no deal. There is no deal. There is no deal.”…

That’s part of how Republican leadership got the votes for TPA is by promising to put taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of billions of dollars of loan guarantees that go primarily to a handful of giant corporations. And it’s what I refer to as a Washington cartel.  It’s career politicians in both parties who get in bed with lobbyists and special interests…

Cruz said that, despite Republicans winning elections that put them in charge of both the House and the Senate, nothing has changed:

In 2010, the people rose up, we got a Republican majority. And they haven’t done much of anything. Then we were told we just need a Republican majority in the Senate, retire Harry Reid. In 2014, millions of Americans stood up to do that. For six months we’ve had a Republican majority. What have they done? They passed a trillion-dollar Cromnibus plan filled with corporate pork and corporate welfare. We funded Obamacare and President Obama’s executive amnesty, and Republican leadership jammed through the confirmation of Loretta Lynch as attorney general. Every one of those is exactly the same as what Harry Reid would have done. And it’s why people are frustrated.

Cruz agreed with Limbaugh’s assertion that McConnell’s vote to repeal Obamacare is a “show vote.”

“Now, of course back in October 2013 when Mike Lee and I were leading the fight to defund Obamacare, then Mitch McConnell joined with Harry Reid in leading the fight to preserve Obamacare,” Cruz continued. “So when it actually has teeth, leadership wasn’t with us. But they do want an empty show vote.”

McConnell came under fire as well from Paul, his colleague from Kentucky. Paul attempted to take the Senate floor to offer two amendments to the highway bill—one to “defund Planned Parenthood and another one to arm servicemen and women on military bases.” The chair of the Senate at the time refused to recognize him, however.

Undaunted, Paul said he will “‘use every Senate rule’ to force his Senate colleagues on the record after fellow Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., blocked his amendment to defund Planned Parenthood,” reported the Washington Examiner.

Paul circulated a petition among members of the Senate, hoping to collect enough signatures to override McConnell and force a vote.

“I’m prepared to use every Senate rule at my disposal to force my colleagues on record whether they like it or not,” Paul wrote on Friday. “Under Senate rules, if enough Senators are willing to stand with me and sign a petition demanding a vote, there will be no stopping you and me.”

“The more I learn about Planned Parenthood’s racket, aborting unborn children and then selling off their organs, the more my head spins,” he wrote. “I’m not about to let Planned Parenthood off the hook. And I’m not about to let politicians and our media sweep this scandal under the rug.”

Roll Call reported Sunday afternoon that the Senate voted to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, yet failed to repeal Obamacare.


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