Democrats Protect Planned Parenthood Funding, Block Budget Extension

Republican leadership is now likely to introduce a budget bill that would leave Planned Parenthood’s funding in place.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to the media while flanked by Sens. John Thune, John Cornyn, and Roy Blunt. (Mark Wilson AFP/Getty)

Sen­ate Demo­crats blocked a Re­pub­lic­an bill Thursday that would keep the gov­ern­ment from shut­ting down at month’s end but strip fund­ing from Planned Par­ent­hood.

The bill failed to get the 60 votes needed to over­come a Demo­crat­ic fili­buster, with eight Re­pub­lic­ans cross­ing over to op­pose the meas­ure and one Demo­crat, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Vir­gin­ia, vot­ing with Re­pub­lic­ans for a second time to end fund­ing for Planned Par­ent­hood. Many of the Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans who voted against Thursday’s spend­ing bill say they don’t be­lieve the fight over Planned Par­ent­hood fund­ing should threaten the op­er­a­tion of the gov­ern­ment.

Immediately after the vote failed, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed another continuing resolution that does not include the Planned Parenthood language. The new measure is expected to eventually pass the Senate, potentially avoiding a government shutdown set to strike in just a week’s time. But its pathway through the House, where the conservative Freedom Caucus ardently opposes any government-funding bill that gives a pass to Planned Parenthood, is much less clear.

Re­pub­lic­an Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who op­posed including Planned Parenthood funding in the CR to begin with, warned against the strategy on Tues­day when the vote was ini­tially an­nounced. “I don’t think the two is­sues should be linked,” Collins said Tues­day. “I think that we need a clean CR in or­der to make sure the gov­ern­ment does not shut down, and that is my top pri­or­ity.”

The bill, which would have kept the gov­ern­ment open through Dec. 11, was Mc­Con­nell’s open­ing move in what has be­come a high-stakes game of budget chick­en. The Re­pub­lic­an lead­er has been very clear that his end goal is to avoid a shut­down, but if—and how—he will achieve this re­mains up in the air, es­pe­cially as some Re­pub­lic­ans say they won’t vote for any meas­ure that ex­tends fed­er­al fund­ing for Planned Par­ent­hood.

Mc­Con­nell has re­peatedly warned his caucus that at­tach­ing the Planned Par­ent­hood meas­ure to a gov­ern­ment-fund­ing bill would fail. Thursday’s vote demon­strated that point to con­ser­vat­ives in the Sen­ate, and per­haps more im­port­antly, the House. McConnell’s new continuing resolution will keep the government’s doors open through Dec. 11, but it’s un­clear when the bill will clear the up­per cham­ber and wheth­er the House can stom­ach it.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said that the Senate would take its first vote on the new continuing resolution, which maintains funding for Planned Parenthood, on Monday. Sen. Ted Cruz, who has said repeatedly that he will push back on any CR that funds Planned Parenthood, could delay the process, but Thursday's vote and leadership's support makes it likely that the CR will pass the Senate with or without him. Leadership hopes to have the final vote on the CR on Tuesday, giving the House until Wednesday at midnight to try to pass it as well and avoid a shutdown.

House Republican leadership met on the issue Thursday, but leaders said they will make no decisions about how to move forward until after a GOP Conference meeting on Friday morning. They discussed "immediately activating the reconciliation process" to put a bill defunding Planned Parenthood on President Obama's desk, "making him defend these grisly practices," according to a senior GOP aide. Reconciliation allows a bill to pass through the Senate with only 51 votes, meaning it can head to Obama without any Democratic votes. They also discussed ramping up House oversight and investigative activities and sending more antiabortion measures to the Senate.

"We'll be having some more discussions with our members," House Majority Whip Steve Scalise said, exiting Speaker John Boehner's office.

Some members are pushing leaders to hold a vote on a CR with language stripping Planned Parenthood of its federal funding, as McConnell tried to do. Yet others believe that doing so just to vote on a clean CR within days would be a meaningless exercise and could ultimately cost Republican leaders support from their ranks on a final clean CR.

"A lot of people would want to vote to defund [Planned Parenthood], even if it required a change of heart on the next vote, but I suppose some would be on one side of that, others on the other," House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers said. Still, he added that he is confident the House will avoid a government shutdown.

The fight over abortion on the Hill stems from the release of a series of sting videos allegedly showing Planned Parenthood illegally selling fetal tissue. The organization denies the allegations, saying it donated them to medical research and charged only the overhead costs.

With support for a clean continuing resolution in the Democratic caucus and a large portion of the Republican majority as well, Cruz and others cannot prevent the Senate from passing the funding bill, but he could delay it. The Senate requires unanimous approval to shorten its lengthy process for considering and voting on new legislation. With just four legislative days left for Congress to agree on a funding bill before the Sept. 30 deadline, Cruz could wield a lot of power over the clock.

After the vote, Cruz did not say what, if any, action he will be taking next to oppose a clean continuing resolution.

“The timing of the vote is not consequential, whether the vote is Saturday or Sunday or Monday,” he told reporters after the vote. “What’s consequential is that we do the right thing, and so my focus is on urging Republican leadership and all Republicans to stand up and do the right thing—to honor the commitments we made to the men and women who elected us.”

Sen. Rand Paul, who is running against Cruz for the Republican presidential nomination, opposed Thursday’s bill—but not, his office insisted in a statement, because he disagrees with Cruz on the Planned Parenthood issue. Paul opposed the bill because he does not support the continuing resolution and, his office added, has never supported one since entering Congress in 2010.

“Sen. Rand Paul today proved that he is the only candidate willing to stand up to the Washington Machine and put an end to its out-of-control spending. … Sen. Paul has led the charge against Planned Parenthood and introduced legislation to defund it,” Paul’s office said in a statement. “This Short-Term Continuing Resolution, however, does everything except resolve the problem—it is a canard. This 'resolution' will add $400 billion in new debt over the full year and a $10 billion increase over the budget caps.”

Sen. Ben Sasse cited similar reasons for opposing the measure, reiterating his commitment to defunding Planned Parenthood. “Washington's false choice between 'fund it all' or 'shut the government down' is nonsense. This city stumbles from crisis to crisis by short-term budgeting,” Sasse said in a statement.

Daniel Newhauser contributed to this article