Stray Republicans may stop bill to repeal Obamacare, defund Planned Parenthood
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) announced Thursday at a press conference that the anticipated final effort to repeal Obamacare would include legislation slashing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
In the form of a “reconciliation bill,” the rolling back of President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare reform and cutting off the flow of tax dollars to the country’s top provider of abortions would be packaged into a fast-track process changing the federal budget.
As a concurrent resolution, passage in the Senate only calls for a simple majority, not 60 votes. Furthermore, there is no filibuster option in this case.
With 52 Republicans in the Senate, the simple majority number is there, but at least two of them have given reason to doubt that all GOP senators are on the same page.
In 2015, a similar reconciliation bill aimed at defunding Planned Parenthood passed Congress, but Obama vetoed it. That legislation was authored by Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, who is expected to be nominated Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services under President Trump.
Only two Republicans in the Senate voted against that 2015 bill, and one of them is still serving in the upper chamber, Senator Susan Collins of Maine. While the GOP would maintain a simple majority even without her vote, there is Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.
On Wednesday, Senator Paul took to the floor to condemn his own party. Not for wanting to repeal Obamacare or defund Planned Parenthood, but for the way leadership chose to go about it, adding $9.7 trillion to the debt, he said.
"I won't vote for budgets that never balance,” Paul vowed, adding that he would propose his own plan to repeal Obamacare and balance the budget in five years.
Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood is launching a campaign to put pressure on the incoming president. Democrats and Planned Parenthood are hoping to mobilize support from across the country in order to influence Republican strays or even Trump, who has spoken positively of the nonprofit reproductive services organization.
“Defunding Planned Parenthood is dangerous to people’s health, it's unpopular, and it would leave people across the country without care,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said during a press conference following that of Speaker Ryan's, according to Ars Technica.
The organization claims 55 million women are at risk of losing no-copay preventive services that include cancer screening, pap smears and sexually transmitted infections screening.
Richards, joined by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and other legislators, also said a national campaign to activate supporters would be launched soon and that “Donald Trump was not elected to defund Planned Parenthood,” the Washington Post reported.
Trump riled some Republicans early in the presidential primary campaign in 2015, when he lauded some of Planned Parenthood’s work during a debate. He also promised to defund the organization over its abortion services, but his less harsh tone and his history of being pro-choice gave some in the NPO some hope.
In August 2015, Planned Parenthood spokesman Eric Ferrero told the Daily Beast, "Donald Trump seems to have realized that banning all abortions, shutting down the government, and defunding Planned Parenthood are extreme positions that are way too far outside the mainstream for even him to take.”
That same month, Trump told Sean Hannity of Fox News about his approach to Planned Parenthood, “Maybe unless they stop with the abortions, we don't do the funding for the stuff that we want.”
Federal funding of abortions was outlawed 40 years ago, but abortion providers can receive tax dollars if they’re put to other uses and services. Planned Parenthood claims abortions make up 3 percent of its work, and in 2014, it received about $553 million from the government, about 43 percent of its overall funding, according to the Washington Post.