Given that the bill only allows states to stop funding Planned Parenthood rather than mandate they do so this tempers my enthusiasm but a win is a win, I guess?
Pence and Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson, who is recovering from back surgery and used a walker inside the chamber, were dramatically summoned to the Capitol to help pass the measure by a razor-thin margin.
All of the chamber’s Democrats opposed the legislation, as did Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who have long opposed blocking funding for the family planning organization. The GOP holds a 52-48 majority in the Senate.
“We’re talking about federal family planning funds and I don’t think that those funds should be subjected to state restrictions,” Collins told POLITICO. “It’s important to recognize that there is already a bar against using federal funds for abortion and that bar stays in effect. That’s a prohibition that I personally support, but I’m a strong supporter of family planning funds.”
A spokesperson for Murkowski said the vote is “consistent with the senator’s long-held belief that men and women should have access to the family planning and reproductive health services they need, including cancer tests and health screenings.”
Sen. Patty Murray said the move was “cruel, and it would have [the] greatest impact on women and families who need it the most.” The Washington Democrat added, “It would undo a valuable effort by the Obama administration to ensure that health care providers are evaluated for federal funding based on their ability to provide the services in question, not on ideology.”
Isakson will also be needed next week in the coming showdown over Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, but it’s up in the air, as of now, whether the Georgia senator will be in Washington for the votes.
“He’s been cleared to travel to D.C. for one day only,” Isakson spokeswoman Amanda Maddox said. “He continues to work with his doctors on his long-term recovery and is eager to get back into his routine soon.”
Reflecting the narrow GOP majority in the Senate, Pence has already had to break a tie once this year: the confirmation of Betsy DeVos for Education secretary. Collins and Murkowski were, again, the Republican defectors on that vote.
Using the Congressional Review Act, the measure will repeal the final rule proposed by the Obama administration in late December that bans states from blocking Title X family planning grants to Planned Parenthood and other health care providers that offer abortion. Title X funding covers services such as contraception, STD screenings and treatments but cannot be used to pay for abortion services.
Thirteen Republican-controlled states restricted the family planning grants to Planned Parenthood before the Obama administration issued the regulation last year.
Federal funding for abortion is already barred by the long-standing Hyde Amendment. Republicans argue that the measure upholds states’ rights and is not an attack on Planned Parenthood.
“This is an opportunity to return to the people the right to prioritize how taxpayer dollars are spent,” said Mallory Quigley, a spokeswoman for the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List. Collins and Murkowski are “missing out on the opportunity to stand up for comprehensive women’s health care.”
It marks the first piece of legislation targeting Planned Parenthood funding — a long-sought Republican goal — that will go to the president’s desk.
On the campaign trail, Trump vowed to end federal funding for the organization. In the first days of his presidency he signed an executive order prohibiting federal aid to foreign organizations that provide or promote abortion.