If a House plan fails in the Senate, lawmakers seeking to defund Planned Parenthood see another opportunity in the upcoming budget battle. But it’s not clear whether a pro-life coalition would regroup to back such a second effort.
A total of 33 state and national pro-life groups pledged their support for halting taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood in the Senate through a process called reconciliation.
Some House Republicans, though, are talking about another option to end taxpayer subsidies for the controversial abortion provider: adding a “rider” defunding Planned Parenthood to the appropriations bill funding the government.
With a Dec. 11 deadline looming, the upcoming omnibus spending bill could be an ideal opportunity, Rep.Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., told The Daily Signal.
“You’ve got to find must-pass legislation,” Huelskamp said of a vehicle for defunding Planned Parenthood. “You’ve got to have something on [the] appropriations [bill] because that’s the only thing going anywhere.”
In an interview with The Daily Signal’s Genevieve Wood, former congressional aide Rachel Bovard argued that the government funding bill is a better way than the reconciliation process to strip taxpayer dollars from Planned Parenthood.
“There is an easier, and some would argue cleaner, way to defund Planned Parenthood through the discretionary funding process,” said Bovard, director of policy services at The Heritage Foundation.
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In an October letter to lawmakers, the coalition of pro-life groups argued that the reconciliation route would expedite the process, neutralize the threat of a filibuster by Senate Democrats, and send a bill defunding Planned Parenthood to President Obama’s desk.
But that strategy, part of a bill designed to repeal portions of Obamacare, could soon land on the chopping block in the Senate.
Sen. John Thune, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, has suggested lawmakers could drop the language defunding Planned Parenthood from the legislation.
“The primary purpose of the bill is Obamacare repeal,” the South Dakota Republican told reporters Monday. “So if [Planned Parenthood] gets in the way of that, at this point we’ll have to take a look at it.”
As a reconciliation measure, the bill combining Planned Parenthood defunding with partial repeal of Obamacare needs only 51 votes to pass instead of the regular 60 to clear the threat of a filibuster by Democrats in the 100-member Senate.
Still, gathering that support could prove a tall order.
Already, half a dozen Republicans have threatened to vote against the legislation for different reasons. Some senators oppose the bill because it defunds Planned Parenthood, others because it fails to repeal Obamacare completely.
House leadership has started holding “listening sessions” on Capitol Hill to discuss possible riders on the appropriations bill with rank-and-file members. Rep. Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho, said these conversations are just beginning.
Conservatives have “a lot of ideas on the life issue and we should pursue any of them,” Labrador told The Daily Signal. “It doesn’t necessarily need to be defunding Planned Parenthood.” He added that “we’re just looking at those options…