Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate Thursday to advance legislation that would overturn a last-minute Obama administration rule forcing states to provide Title X family planning grants to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.
Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted against ending debate on the bill, requiring the need for Pence’s vote to break the tie.
The House approved H.J. Res. 43, introduced by Rep. Diane Black (R-TN), in February. The resolution uses the Congressional Review Act to rescind the Obama administration rule. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) sponsored the measure in the Senate.
Black observed on the house floor, “Despite the histrionics you may hear on the other side of the aisle today, with this resolution, we are not voting to defund Planned Parenthood, voting to cut Title X funding, or voting to restrict abortion rights.”
“Madam Speaker, we are simply voting today to affirm the right of states to fund the healthcare providers that best suit their needs, without fear of reprisal from their own federal government,” she added.
Heritage Action explains Title X funding:
Title X of the Public Health Service Act provides federal funds to states for family planning grants. Once states receive the funds, they have the ability to prioritize subrecipients, directing funds to organizations like community health centers and family health clinics. While federal law prohibits government funding for abortion, it does allow certain public dollars, like the Title X grants, to support abortion providers if the funds are directed to non-abortion related health services. Under this exception, Planned Parenthood has been eligible to receive Title X funds, per the states’ discretion.
In December, Obama’s deputies in the Department of Health and Human Services released the final rule that favored Planned Parenthood by barring states from diverting family planning funding from the abortion chain to federally qualified health centers that do not perform abortions.
Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in the U.S., performing at least 300,000 abortions every year.
About a dozen states have attempted to eliminate Planned Parenthood’s funding in the wake of the release of videos that alleged the abortion chain harvests the body parts of babies aborted in its clinics and sells them for profit. These states have redirected the funding to other community healthcare centers, which provide more comprehensive services than Planned Parenthood and outnumber the abortion chain by 20 to 1.
Despite the overwhelming number of community healthcare centers, however, the Obama administration, an avid supporter of the nation’s largest abortion business, said that by redirecting funding away from Planned Parenthood, the states “have interfered with” low-income individuals’ ability to access federal assistance quickly.
The Heritage Foundation’s Melanie Israel wrote at The Daily Signal:
Overturning this rule is the appropriate step for Congress to take, to both protect life and reassert that the states have Tenth Amendment rights to allocate Title X family planning grants in such a manner that prioritizes community health clinics and true family planning over the industrial abortion industry as represented by Planned Parenthood. The HHS rule is a classic example of excessive federal rulemaking and executive overreach for partisan political gain, making it a perfect target for nullification under the CRA.
Planned Parenthood responded to the vote with a tweet:
Pence is 1st @VP ever to break a tie to undermine women's access to care.
— Planned Parenthood Action (@PPact) March 30, 2017
Following this procedural vote, the Senate will now bring the resolution to the floor.