Republican leadership plans to defund Planned Parenthood with an Obamacare repeal package, but the measure may lack support to cross the finish line.
With Republicans set to control both chambers of Congress and the White House, lawmakers have been gearing up for the first big fight of 2017 over healthcare. Conservatives hope gutting Obamacare will facilitate a laundry list of goals this year, including defunding the nation’s largest abortion provider.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., confirmed Jan. 5 that defunding Planned Parenthood and redirecting money to community health centers would be part of the GOP’s proposal to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
“[This] is a victory for women’s healthcare,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List. “Community health centers provide far more services than Planned Parenthood and outnumber them 20-to-1 nationwide. We commend Speaker Paul Ryan on his continued resolve to fund women’s health care, not abortion.”
Ryan’s announcement sparked outrage from Democrats and pro-abortion groups who vowed to fight the repeal process. Even with majorities in both chambers, Republicans have little room for error. A small fold of hesitant GOP lawmakers threatens to unravel the plan before it ever gets off the ground.
A year ago, Republicans were able to send a package to President Barack Obama’s desk that repealed major parts of the ACA and stripped Planned Parenthood’s funding. Obama quickly vetoed the measure. This time, GOP leaders hope to use the same once-per-year vehicle known as reconciliation to do it again.
In order to break a Senate filibuster, legislation needs to pass a 60-vote threshold. Reconciliation bypasses that so a bill can find safe passage with a simple majority.
Republicans have a 52-48 seat advantage in the Senate, which means they can lose no more than two votes from their caucus to proceed.
A handful a GOP senators have already said they would consider blocking an Obamacare repeal bill without a concrete plan to replace it. So far, neither congressional Republicans nor the incoming Trump administration have laid out a detailed replacement plan. And the included provision to defund Planned Parenthood will only complicate manners.
“Obviously, I’m not happy that the speaker has decided to include the defunding of Planned Parenthood—an extremely controversial issue—in the package,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told reporters yesterday.
Collins voted against last year’s package. She did not confirm she would block it this time, saying she didn’t want to “prejudge” the bill before it came out.
In the past, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, has also expressed opposition to defunding Planned Parenthood. And Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., already vowed to vote against any Obamacare repeal bill that didn’t provide a replacement. If all three vote nay, Republicans may have to go back to the drawing board.
Ryan’s announcement came just a day after the House Select Panel on Infant Lives released its final report, which urged Congress to defund the abortion giant.
Planned Parenthood reported $533 million in federal funding in 2014. The group said if Congress redirected money it would lose around 40 percent of its annual funding.
Pro-abortion Democrats promised to fight the effort to defund Planned Parenthood.
“We are going to stand against this with every fiber of our beings,” said Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., co-chairwoman of the House Pro-Choice Caucus.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., called on individual Republicans to reconsider their support for a reconciliation measure even if they voted for one last year.
“This is now real,” Murray said. “I would give a strong message to every member of Congress that you’re going to hold the bag on this if you try to hide behind a vote. The consequences are real.”
Dannenfelser said President-elect Donald Trump promised pro-life groups he would sign legislation to defund Planned Parenthood if given the opportunity. Now she hopes Congress will come to a consensus and force him to fulfill that promise.
— by Evan Wilt