VP Mike Pence breaks tie on Planned Parenthood funding

Miranda GreerApr 03, 2017

Republican legislation letting states deny federal family planning money to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers squeezed narrowly through the Senate on Thursday, rescued by an ailing GOP senator who returned to the Capitol after back surgery and a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence.

The bill will dismiss a rule put in place under Obama that prohibited states from blocking the use of federal funds for organizations that provide abortions.

"Republicans didn't listen to us", said Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the senior Democrat on the health committee.

Their votes were needed because two Republicans - Susan Collins of ME and Lisa Murkowski, who are each supporters of Planned Parenthood - voted against it. Republicans have a 52-48 majority and all Democrats voted no.

Republicans, who control both chambers of Congress, for years have sought to defund Planned Parenthood and other clinics that provide abortion.

This tie-breaking vote will allow the Senate to cast a vote later in the day that would actually repeal Obama's rule protecting Planned Parenthood, potentially allowing for states to restrict funding to Planned Parenthood.

According to the Washington State Department of Health, the annual budget for family planning is about $13 million, $4 million of which is from federal funding.

Women's marches across the country have protested cuts to reproductive health care services.

Pence's vote was needed for the Senate to agree to bring the resolution to the floor. The funds, though, already can not go to abortion services, Democrats said.

Naturally, Planned Parenthood ridiculed the bill, saying it could encourage states to discriminate against family planning healthcare providers that also offer abortions.

What this doesn't deal with, however, is the flow of federal funds to Planned Parenthood.

"This regulation is an unnecessary restriction on states that know their residents' own needs best", said Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Thursday's vote was Pence's second tiebreaker of his young term.

But I am sad to say I realize these measures will only go so far.

The Title X grant of the Public Health Service Act is the only federal program focused exclusively on providing family planning. "Today's vote makes it clear Congress also has the votes to send to President Trump a reconciliation bill that defunds Planned Parenthood of more than $400 million in taxpayer funding and instead funds community health centers", she wrote. "If that happens, that's like 40 percent of Planned Parenthood's budget, they are just going to be closing down clinics dozens of them".

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