Pence casts tiebreaking Senate procedural vote on funding for abortion providers

Vice President Pence on Thursday cast a tie-breaking procedural vote that allowed the Senate to move forward with an effort to nix an Obama-era rule that blocked states from defunding healthcare providers for political reasons. 

Pence appeared on the floor after a procedural vote stalled in a 50-50 tie, casting the 51st vote in favor.

Republican Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThis week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick McConnell: Senate to confirm Kavanaugh by Oct. 1 MORE (Alaska) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report — Russia furor grips Washington Overnight Health Care: Novartis pulls back on drug price hikes | House Dems launch Medicare for All caucus | Trump officials pushing ahead on Medicaid work requirements Senate panel to vote next week on banning 'gag clauses' in pharmacy contracts MORE (Maine) joined all Democrats in voting against ending debate on the bill. 

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Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohn (Johnny) Hardy IsaksonOvernight Defense: Trump inviting Putin to DC | Senate to vote Monday on VA pick | Graham open to US-Russia military coordination in Syria Senate to vote Monday on Trump's VA nominee GOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE MORE (R-Ga.), who has been recovering from two back surgeries and hasn't voted since Feb. 17, returned to the Senate to cast a vote, creating the tie that led to Pence’s vote. 

Leadership held the vote open for roughly an hour as they rounded up enough votes to move forward. A final vote on getting rid of the Obama-era rule could happen as early as Thursday afternoon. 

Republicans are using the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to roll back some Obama-era regulations with only a simple majority vote. 

Former President Obama's rule required that state and local governments distribute federal Title X funding for services related to contraception, fertility, pregnancy care and cervical cancer screenings to health providers, regardless of whether they also preform abortions. 

Democrats blasted Republicans for using Pence to break a tie on a procedural vote. 

As Republicans waited for Isakson to arrive, Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats slam Trump for considering Putin’s ’absurd’ request to question Americans Judge Kavanaugh confounds the left This week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation MORE's office sent a note to reporters with the subject line: "What's going on with this Senate vote? The VP needs to break the tie & harm women's health." 

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) criticized Pence’s tiebreaking vote, tweeting: “Just in case we didn't already have enough men making decisions on women's health.”

Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayDems to propose legislation to prevent ICE from shackling pregnant women Top Dems urge Trump officials to reverse suspension of ObamaCare payments Dems launch pressure campaign over migrant families MORE (D-Wash.)—who sat on the Senate floor and waited for Pence to arrive—pledged that Democrats would spend Thursday afternoon speaking out against the GOP-effort. 

“They're pushing this resolution so hard today to the point where they bring the vice president to break a tie, it's safe to bet that Republicans are going to try to attach riders to take away Planned Parenthood funding in the spending bill for the rest of the year,” said Murray—the No. 3 Senate Democrat.

Lawmakers have until April 28 to fund the government. House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDems unveil slate of measures to ratchet up pressure on Russia National Dems make play in Ohio special election Trump vows to hold second meeting with Putin MORE (R-Wis.) signaled this week that House Republicans wouldn't try to tie a Planned Parenthood fight to the spending bill. 

Republicans argue that getting rid of the regulation gives states more flexibility and push's back against Obama-era regulatory overreach. 

Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell spokesman on Putin visit: 'There is no invitation from Congress' Overnight Defense: Trump inviting Putin to DC | Senate to vote Monday on VA pick | Graham open to US-Russia military coordination in Syria Senate to vote Monday on Trump's VA nominee MORE (R-Ky.) argued that the Obama move hurt “local communities.”

“It substituted Washington's judgment for the needs of real people,” he said ahead of the vote. “This regulation is an unnecessary restriction on states that know their residents a lot better than the federal government.”

Pence last month cast the tiebreaking vote to confirm Betsy DeVos to lead the Education Department. Murkowski and Collins also joined all Democrats in opposing her nomination, necessitating the tiebreaker.

Prior to that, the last time a vice president broke a tie in the Senate was 2008, when then-Vice President Dick Cheney voted on tax legislation.