Boehner and Republican leaders tee up votes to cut Planned Parenthood – USA TODAY
WASHINGTONÂ â Republicans will forceÂ several votes on the House floor Friday to cut federalÂ funding for Planned Parenthood and transfer that money to otherÂ women’sÂ health services, but there does not appear to be any path to get the bills through the Senate.
At Wednesday’s presidential debate, Republicans echoed congressional outrage over undercover videos released over the summer that appeared to show Planned Parenthood officials negotiating prices for fetal tissue from abortions. The organization has denied that it sells tissue, but three House committee have launched investigationsÂ and Republicans and abortion opponents have demanded that Congress strip the group’s federal funding.
Some conservatives in the House have also said that they will refuse to approve any spending bill to keep the government open past Sept. 30 unless it includes a ban on funding for Planned Parenthood.
The House is voting Thursday and Friday on a bill offered by Reps. Dianne Black, R-Tenn., and Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., that would cut all federal funding to Planned Parenthood for a year and transfer the $235 million toÂ community health centers and other qualified facilities.Â Republicans argue that these centers provide all the services Planned ParenthoodÂ provides â except for abortions. DemocratsÂ and abortion rights advocates say that is not trueÂ and that these health centersÂ would not be able to provide comparable services. Planned Parenthood is already barred from using any federal money to provide abortions.
The House will also vote on legislation offered by Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., to strengthen criminal penalties for anyone fails to provide medical care to a baby that survives an attempted abortion.
Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Thursday the goal is toÂ “stop these grisly practices we’ve seen by some abortion providers around the country,” but he acknowledged it may be hard to get the bills through theÂ Senate. “ThereÂ are a lot of steps in this process, a couple ofÂ steps are being taken today … you are going to see otherÂ steps in the coming weeks.” Boehner would not rule out attempting to add Planned Parenthood language to a type ofÂ budget bill that is immune from Senate filibuster rules and only requires a majority vote to pass.
InÂ an evening statement, Boehner added, “Tomorrow I hope my colleagues in Congress will ignore the White Houseâs absurd veto threats, listen to the American people, and do the right thing . . .Â This is about basic decency, and respect for all life.â
“They don’t believe in family planning,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. “That’s what we’re dealing withÂ here.Â This is not about terminating a pregnancy.” Pelosi said Republicans are simply using Planned Parenthood as an excuse to shut down the government when the federal budget expires Sept. 30. But she said Democrats would prevail because President Obama would veto any bill to cut the group’s funding and Democrats have enough votes to uphold a veto.
The Senate will take up a different abortion bill next week, banning nearly all abortions after 20 weeks. The House has already passed this bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has not yet scheduled the other billsÂ for a voteÂ and told reporters Wednesday,Â âThe cold hard reality for those who donât support Planned Parenthood is that we need a president who has a similar view and would sign our bill.”
The Planned Parenthood fight has so far prevented Congress from making any further progress on talks to keep the government open. “We had a good conversation with our membersÂ yesterday,” about a short-term spending bill,Â Boehner said, and “we are going to continueÂ those conversations, but we haven’t madeÂ any decisions just yet.”
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.,Â said he supports cutting funding forÂ Planned Parenthood, but doing so on aÂ short-term spending bill would have “absolutely no impact” becauseÂ the Department of HealthÂ and Human ServicesÂ has already given out its grants for the year. Cole chairs the House subcommittee that oversees spending for the HHSÂ and said:Â “Our office has been informed by the Department of HealthÂ and Human Services they wont be making any more grants … probably until April of next year.”
Cole said he thinks that allowing the votes in the House will “show movement across the floor and that we are serious about this,” which could relive some pressure from conservatives and allow the short-term funding bill to go forward.
“I don’t think there has ever been aÂ Republican party that has had as pro-life a leadership as we have right now,” Cole said.
Mallory Quigley, a spokeswoman for the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List, said the votes are worth having even if the measures don’t become law, because “the publicÂ awareness and education that is goingÂ to take place from all this is reasonÂ enough.” The debate also helps advocates make abortion “a defining issue in the presidential race,” she said.