The pending Republican move to defund Planned Parenthood will depend on four GOP Senators who are facing tough swing-state elections in 2016, and who must decide whether to alienate feminist or pro-life groups.
Under the rules of reconciliation, the House’s budget package — which defunds Planned Parenthood — cannot be filibustered in the Senate. GOP Senate leadership, however, is uncertain whether Republicans will have the required 51 votes to approve the package.
As The Hill reports, Sen. Mark Kirk, Sen. Susan Collins, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski all have supported funding the nation’s largest abortion provider that has been exposed as selling the body parts of unborn babies in investigative videos.
In light of the practices discussed in the videos, several congressional committees are investigating Planned Parenthood. Meanwhile, a credentialed forensic company has confirmed that the videos, produced by the Center for Medical Progress, are authentic and have not been manipulated or “deceptively edited,” as Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards and the organization’s supporters have claimed.
Kirk’s seat is particularly vulnerable in 2016, and he has twice voted against moving forward legislation that eliminates funding for the abortion business.
Collins has defended Planned Parenthood against defunding on the Senate floor. She voted for a motion to proceed to an up-or-down vote on eliminating funds but announced she approved it only after consulting with leadership to ensure ultimately funding would be maintained for the scandal-ridden organization.
In 2011, Collins received a personal “thank-you” letter from Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, who expressed her gratitude that the Maine senator voted to continue funding her abortion business:
Thank you for standing up for the millions of Americans who rely on Planned Parenthood for their primary and preventive health care. Your leadership and voice of support during the FY11 continuing resolution debate was essential to defeating the most dangerous legislative attack in our 95-year history. With your help, Planned Parenthood survived and emerged stronger than ever…
I am grateful for your tremendous leadership and partnership, and I look forward to working together in the future.
Richards added her own personal note to the letter as well, writing, “Senator Collins – Thank you for your leadership on women’s health and your support for the three million patients who will visit Planned Parenthood this year. We are enormously grateful. Cecile Richards.”
Murkowski, who faces re-election next year, took to Facebook on August 3 to voice her support – joined with that of Collins and Kirk –for Planned Parenthood, but clearly gave herself a back door in the event the abortion business is found guilty of felonies as a result of the information gleaned from the undercover videos:
I have long supported Planned Parenthood because I believe it offers important family planning, cancer screenings and other health services to thousands of men and women in Alaska and across the country. But my support is not unconditional. If Planned Parenthood or its affiliates have engaged in illegal activity it is not to be condoned.
Today the Senate voted to take up a measure to address funding for Planned Parenthood. Like many Alaskans, I have watched and been appalled by the Planned Parenthood videos and have asked its leadership, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct an immediate, thorough and transparent series of investigations to find out if the law has been broken.
That is why I have co-sponsored an amendment with Senator Collins and Senator Kirk that would do three important things: it would maintain funding for the other valuable services that Planned Parenthood provides, it would require the investigations that I requested be conducted within 90 days, and it would discontinue funds to those affiliates who have engaged in any illegal and reprehensible behavior. Had the cloture vote succeeded, I had received assurances that our amendment would be considered.
Ayotte – who just learned she will be challenged by Democrat New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan in her re-election bid next year – joined with Collins and Murkowski in September to vote against a short-term spending bill that would have defunded Planned Parenthood.
According to The Hill, all four GOP senators declined to say Tuesday whether they would approve the House budget package.
“I have not supported the defunding [of Planned Parenthood],” Murkowski said. “I’ve supported the repeal of ObamaCare. I’ve got to look at it as a whole.”
“I’m not going to prejudge what’s sent over by the House until I’ve seen all the components,” said Collins.
“I have to look at it,” said Ayotte, who will likely find herself in a highly charged race against Hassan, an Obama policy disciple.
In New Hampshire, the Republican-led executive council voted in August against continuing Planned Parenthood’s federal contracts in the state, a decision Hassan criticized:
Planned Parenthood provides critical primary and preventive health care services to thousands of New Hampshire women, including cancer screenings, birth control and STD testing. Access to these services is essential to the economic security and vitality of our families, and I am incredibly disappointed in the outcome of today’s vote.
Two years ago, we came together across party lines to restore funding for Planned Parenthood and support the critical health care services that their health centers provide to women, men and families across the state. It is clear that today’s vote is the result of an ideological and political attack against Planned Parenthood and a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions, as there have been no allegations or evidence that Planned Parenthood of Northern New England has done anything but follow New Hampshire law and help thousands of women and families access health care.
The council’s vote to defund Planned Parenthood will hurt the health and economic well-being of thousands of Granite Staters. Moving forward, I will continue to fight to ensure that women and families have access to the important health services that are essential to the economic security and vitality of our families.
Sen. Ron Johnson will also likely face a tough race next year against his former rival Sen. Russ Feingold in Wisconsin. However, Johnson views his vote for the House budget package differently.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I think it clarifies the positions of the parties.”
“We’ll take up reconciliation when it comes over from the House,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “And it’s my hope and expectation that it would have in it as much of ObamaCare as we can repeal. And I hope that it will also include provisions to defund Planned Parenthood.”
Democrats are expected to remain united against the House package.