Senate GOP thwarted in effort to defund Planned Parenthood

Francis Rivera

A measure to defund Planned Parenthood failed in the Senate on Monday in a 53-46 vote, likely punting the issue into the fall debate over preventing a government shutdown.

Republicans fell short of the 60 votes needed to move forward with the legislation, which was fast-tracked to the floor after the release of undercover videos that show Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue from abortions.

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Only two Democrats, Sens. Joe DonnellyJoe DonnellyOvernight Finance: Senate rejects funding bill as shutdown looms | Labor Dept. to probe Wells Fargo | Fed to ease stress test rules for small banks Overnight Energy: Judges scrutinize Obama climate rule Funding bill rejected as shutdown nears MORE (Ind.) and Joe ManchinJoe ManchinElection-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables Mylan CEO should be ashamed of EpiPen prices Overnight Finance: Senate rejects funding bill as shutdown looms | Labor Dept. to probe Wells Fargo | Fed to ease stress test rules for small banks MORE (W.Va.), voted for the legislation, while two Republicans, Sen. Mark KirkMark KirkFormer Miss Universe becomes surprise story to emerge from debate Senate rivals gear up for debates The Trail 2016: Trump seizes on Charlotte violence MORE (Ill.) and Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnell9/11 bill is a global blunder that will weaken US efforts abroad States urged to bolster election security How the White House got rolled on the Saudi-9/11 bill MORE (R-Ky.), voted against it.

McConnell voted no to preserve the option of bringing up the bill again. Kirk, who is facing a tough reelection race in 2016, had signaled he was likely to break with his party on the vote, citing the preventive health services that Planned Parenthood provides.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamKerry: US 'on the verge' of suspending talks with Russia on Syria GOP leaders express reservations a day after 9/11 veto override McConnell opens door to changing 9/11 bill MORE (R-S.C.), who is running for president, was the only member to miss the vote.

McConnell and other supporters of the defunding bill said it would protect women’s access to medical services because the roughly $500 million in federal funding would be redistributed to other organizations, such as community health centers.

“Instead of subsidizing a political group, this bill would ensure funds continue to flow to community health centers and hospitals that provide more comprehensive health services — and have many more facilities nationwide,” McConnell said Monday on the Senate floor. 

Republicans noted that there are 21 million people served by community health centers across the country, compare with the 2.7 million people served by Planned Parenthood. 

Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidThe missed opportunity of JASTA States urged to bolster election security How the White House got rolled on the Saudi-9/11 bill MORE (D-Nev.) and other Democrats portrayed the legislation as an attack on women’s health and said community health centers would not be able to fill the gaps.

“It’s our responsibility in the Senate to ensure that American women have access to care,” Reid said. “It’s our obligation to protect our wives our sisters, our daughters, our granddaughters. Protect them from the absurd policies of a Republican Party that has lost its moral compass.”

Sen. Angus KingAngus KingWells CEO Stumpf resigns from Fed advisory panel Pentagon chief: 9/11 bill could be used against US troops GOP chairman: White House ‘running rogue’ on water rule MORE (I-Maine) suggested that the effort was misguided, comparing it to “attacking Brazil after Pearl Harbor. It's a vigorous response, but it's the wrong target.” 

The Senate vote mostly fell along party lines, with only Manchin and Donnelly breaking from the Democrats.

Donnelly in a statement said he was "very concerned" by what he had seen in the Planned Parenthood videos.

“While Planned Parenthood clinics in Indiana do not partake in fetal tissue donation and were found to be following the law, today’s vote is about Planned Parenthood clinics around the country. I cannot in good faith support federal funding for this organization until the questions of whether other clinics are complying with federal and state laws are answered," Donnelly said in a statement to The Hill.

The Senate vote Monday is just the beginning of what is expected to be a long fight over funding for the group. 

The anti-abortion group behind the videos, the Center for Medical Progress, says that it will be releasing as many as 10 more in the weeks to come, which could continue to fan the flames of the debate. 

Some Republicans already have their sights on the government funding debate in September, raising the prospect of a government shutdown if the sides cannot agree on whether to fund the group or not. 

The White House has already vowed that President Obama would veto any spending that strips funding from Planned Parenthood. 

But 18 House conservatives wrote a letter to Republican leaders saying they will not vote for any spending bill that includes Planned Parenthood funding, and that number could grow during the August recess.

Sens. Susan CollinsSusan CollinsElection-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables Swing-state Republicans play up efforts for gun control laws Reid knocks GOP on gun 'terror loophole' after attacks MORE (R-Maine) and Kirk had introduced separate legislation that they were planning to offer as an amendment to the Planned Parenthood bill if it overcame Monday’s hurdle. 

Their proposal would have required the Department of Justice to investigate if Planned Parenthood or any facilities violated federal law. It would also only cut off federal funding to the organization's facilities that profited off of harvesting fetal tissue. 

The Maine Republican suggested that her proposal would be a more “targeted” approach compared to a blanket ban on federal funding. 

“The bill that has been proposed by several of my colleagues would require women to give up the health provider of their choice when we don’t yet know all of the facts about Planned Parenthood’s actions,” Collins said, adding that she has “received assurances from the Majority Leader that should the motion to proceed succeed, that there will be ample opportunity to offer amendments.” 

The Planned Parenthood debate was stirred by a series of undercover videos that show officials with the group discussing the price of fetal tissue for medical research. 

While Planned Parenthood notes the officials are discussing compensation for the sales rather than profit, the videos have put the group on the defensive and prompted it to hire a crisis communications firm.

The group’s president, Cecile Richards, apologized for the “tone” in the first video, where an official was filmed discussing fetal tissue over wine and salad.

- This story was last updated at 6:43 p.m.