Centrist senators don’t want to talk about Planned Parenthood

Centrist senators don’t want to talk about something that is extremely important to both liberals and conservatives in the ongoing budget battle: government funding for Planned Parenthood.

The hot-button issue is one of the biggest hurdles standing in the way of any bipartisan deal on a spending bill that would fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year.

With exceptions, centrists in the upper chamber have been reluctant to support or condemn an amendment that would bar taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood.

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All Republican senators recently voted in favor of a House-passed appropriations bill, which includes the Planned Parenthood language sponsored by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.). A few of them noted they didn’t agree with all of the amendments attached to the measure, which calls for $61 billion in cuts and failed to pass the in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidBill O'Reilly: Politics helped kill Kate Steinle, Zarate just pulled the trigger Tax reform is nightmare Déjà vu for Puerto Rico Ex-Obama and Reid staffers: McConnell would pretend to be busy to avoid meeting with Obama MORE (D-Nev.) last week said the Planned Parenthood measure is a deal breaker, vowing that it won’t be included in the final House-Senate package.

On March 11, Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Week ahead: Trump expected to shrink two national monuments GOP on verge of opening Arctic refuge to drilling MORE (Alaska) was the first GOP senator to publicly oppose cuts to Planned Parenthood.

“I believe Planned Parenthood provides vital services to those in need and disagree with their funding cuts in the bill. I ask you to consider these programs going forward to determine if there is room for allowing continued funding,” Murkowski wrote in a letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and ranking member Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranObstruction of justice watch: Trump attacks the FBI America isn't ready to let Sessions off his leash The Hill's Whip List: Where Republicans stand on Senate tax bill MORE (R-Miss.).

In a statement earlier this week, Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) said, “I support family planning and health services for women. Given our severe budget problems, I don’t believe any area of the budget is completely immune from cuts. However, the proposal to eliminate all funding for family planning goes too far. As we continue with our budget negotiations, I hope we can find a compromise that is reasonable and appropriate.”

But days later, some are claiming Brown was referring to Title X family planning program, not Planned Parenthood specifically. The House-passed measure calls for eliminating funding for all of Title X, which does not pay for abortions. Title X last year was allocated $317 million, and $75 million of those funds went to Planned Parenthood affiliates.

Planned Parenthood provides contraception, HIV testing, health services and abortions at its more than 800 clinics around the country.

Brown’s office declined to elaborate on the senator’s statement.

Meanwhile, many Democrats are keeping their positions close to the vest, including several up for reelection next year.

A rundown of centrist senators’ positions on Planned Parenthood follows:

Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids Study: ObamaCare bills backed by Collins would lower premiums Right scrambles GOP budget strategy MORE (R-Maine): Kevin Kelley, Collins’ communications director, said, “Sen. Collins is a long-time supporter of women’s health and family planning programs, and she believes the House’s decision to completely eliminate all funding is unwise.

“These programs have successfully reduced the number of unplanned pregnancies, therefore helping to reduce abortions and health care costs. Sen. Collins believes that it is critical that Congress rein in excessive spending, and that there are wasteful federal programs that could legitimately be cut or even eliminated, but these decisions should be made carefully, fully taking into account the benefits of each program and the potential consequences of elimination.”

Olympia Snowe (R-Maine)*: “While confronting our serious economic challenges and fiscal realities will require difficult decisions to reach more sustainable levels of government spending, the outright elimination of funding for Planned Parenthood and Title X is a step too far and would have a significant impact on access to the preventive services and screenings that have benefited millions of women nationwide. ” 

Mark KirkMark KirkHigh stakes as Trump heads to Hill Five things to watch for at Trump-Senate GOP meeting Giffords, Scalise highlight party differences on guns MORE (R-Ill.): Kirk has always supported Planned Parenthood and family planning efforts.

Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska): She was the first GOP senator to publicly oppose cuts to Planned Parenthood on March 11.

Scott Brown (R-Mass.)*:  “I support family planning and health services for women. Given our severe budget problems, I don't believe any area of the budget is completely immune from cuts. However, the proposal to eliminate all funding for family planning goes too far. As we continue with our budget negotiations, I hope we can find a compromise that is reasonable and appropriate.” 

Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyThe Hill's 12:30 Report Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign Dems look to use Moore against GOP MORE (D-Pa.)*: Casey, who opposes abortion rights, supports federal funding for contraception and women’s healthcare and has indicated that he would vote against the Planned Parenthood cuts if they should come up for a vote in the Senate.

Ben Nelson (D-Neb.)*: His office declined to speculate, noting it’s unclear if the amendment will be in the final measure.

Jim Webb (D-Va.): Webb Press Secretary Will Jenkins said, “He has not indicated how he would vote on the various budget proposals.”

Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterGOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration Senate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank GOP defeats Schumer bid to delay tax vote MORE (D-Mont.)*: Declined to comment.

Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump rips Dems a day ahead of key White House meeting Senate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank Wealthy outsiders threaten to shake up GOP Senate primaries MORE (D-W.Va.)*: Declined to comment.

Kent Conrad (D-N.D.): Declined to comment.

* Up for reelection in 2012.