Senate votes to let states defund Planned Parenthood
Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote
WASHINGTON—Vice President Mike Pence broke a tie in the Senate today to overrule an Obama administration rule that forced states to finance Planned Parenthood.
Days before President Barack Obama vacated the White House, he ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to block 13 conservative states from denying Planned Parenthood Title X funding.
Using the Congressional Review Act, which grants Congress the ability to disapprove a new federal agency rule within 60 days of its passage, the House voted last month to overrule Obama. But the resolution nearly died in the Senate, where Republicans have a 52-48 majority. With two Senate Republicans joining Democrats to block the resolution, Pence cast the tie-breaking vote to give states back the option—pending the president’s signature—to deny Title X funds to abortion providers.
For more than 40 years, the federal government has made funds available through Title X grants for organizations that provide family planning services. Through this program, the federal government can fund healthcare organizations directly or award grants to states, which choose money recipients.
Because of the longstanding Hyde Amendment, no taxpayer dollars can fund abortion. Yet, some states preferred to direct Title X funds away from organizations that provide family planning services and also terminate pregnancies.
According to 2011 NPR report, 25 percent of all Title X grants go to Planned Parenthood and its affiliates. The last-minute Obama rule sought to ensure Planned Parenthood would not lose any of those dollars.
Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., introduced the resolution in the House and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, did the same in the Senate.
“Why was this rule implemented in the first place?” Ernst asked on the Senate floor after the vote. “It’s because the Obama administration wanted to do everything it could to secure federal funding streams for Planned Parenthood before they turned over the keys to the Trump administration. With our vote today we prevented that from happening.”
This morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called for a procedural vote on the resolution before senators could begin debate. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, both voted no, bringing the total to 49-50 in favor of Democrats. Republicans held the vote open for more than an hour while they waited for Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., to arrive from Atlanta and tie the vote.
Isakson, who is recovering from back surgery, has not voted since Feb. 17. An aide pushed Isakson to the Senate floor in a wheelchair, and he joined his colleagues with help of a walker. Pence soon followed to advance the motion.
Democrats then held the floor for the next five hours. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., stayed on the Senate floor for most of that time, begging for just one more Republican to change their vote and block the bill.
But Republican votes stayed intact, and Pence traveled to Capitol Hill again to pass the bill onto the president’s desk.
“Today, Congress is sending a resolution to President Trump ensuring that states are not forced to fund America’s abortion giant, Planned Parenthood, with Title X tax dollars,” said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser. “We thank Rep. Diane Black, Sen. Joni Ernst, Senate Majority Leader McConnell, and, of course, Vice President Pence for their efforts to undo Obama’s parting gift to the big abortion industry led by Planned Parenthood.”
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