By Sarah Ferris - 08/29/15 09:48 AM EDT
House Republican leaders are planning a vote to freeze funding for Planned Parenthood this fall, according to GOP aides, a move that could help mitigate an inter-party battle and avoid a government shutdown.
“We’re encouraged to know there will be a vote this fall, whether it’s our bill or something that is similar,” a spokesman for Rep. Diane BlackDiane BlackFight brews over forcing library to use ‘illegal alien’ Watchdog: Group broke federal law escorting women to abortion clinics Backlash to Tubman decision limited, isolated MORE (R-Tenn.) said Friday.
A bill to defund Planned Parenthood is expected to come up for a vote shortly after lawmakers return from recess, aides said. It would likely take the form of legislation from Black which would block federal funding to Planned Parenthood for one year, although leaders are still weighing their options.
A vote to defund Planned Parenthood comes amid an intensifying debate among congressional Republicans who are split about the prospects of a government shutdown over the health provider.
At least 18 Republicans in the House, as well as a small coalition in the upper chamber led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), have said they will refuse to back a budget deal that includes federal dollars for Planned Parenthood.
But others, including Black and Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-Ky.), say a shutdown is not a solution.
“I’m not in the shutdown government camp. That is not the way to get to the bottom of this issue, by shutting down the government,” Black told Politico last week.
Black has argued that because Planned Parenthood’s largest revenue stream is Medicaid – which is mandatory spending – a defunding vote would not greatly restrict its budget.
“Those who believe [a shutdown] helps us defund Planned Parenthood misunderstand what the precedent is, and misunderstand what happens,” her spokesman added.
A vote to defund Planned Parenthood this fall would be a change in tune for House Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerOvernight Finance: Puerto Rico bill clears panel | IRS chief vows to finish term | Bill would require nominees to release tax returns Overnight Defense: Pentagon chief fears sequestration's return GOP senator: Reid's 'ramblings' are 'bitter, vulgar, incoherent' MORE (R-Ohio), who has previously said he wants to see the results of congressional investigations before calling a vote. Having evidence in hand against the organization, Boehner has said, would bolster the party’s case and potentially win over Democratic members as well.
Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith declined to comment, saying the fall schedule is not yet decided.
House leaders will likely make their Planned Parenthood strategy clear after their first post-recess conference meeting — a key opportunity for leadership to gauge the interest of rank-and-file members.
Lawmakers will have a jam-packed schedule when they return after Labor Day.
First on the agenda will likely be a measure to disapprove of the Iran deal, with the Senate expected to vote first. As they wait, House leaders could have time to call a vote on defunding Planned Parenthood.
While Boehner has made clear that he condemns Planned Parenthood's fetal tissue program — the target of a number of viral videos — and supports defunding the organization, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) has come out stronger in his push for legislation.
After the first two videos were released, McCarthy said he supported immediately voting to defund Planned Parenthood until the group can clear its name.
"Regardless of where anybody stands on the issue, knowing the doubt of what's going on here, is this a place where tax dollars should be spent? At the very least, there should be a moratorium until this investigation is done," he told reporters.
Black has kept in close touch with McCarthy, and said he promised a vote.
“Kevin McCarthy has told me that yes, he will bring up the legislation, but the sooner the better,” Black told former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on “One America News” this week. She did not say when the vote would come up.
Four congressional committees are currently investigating Planned Parenthood, which was hurled into the national spotlight after a series of secretly recorded videos that accused the group of illegally profiting from its fetal tissue donation program.
Anti-abortion activists have released eight videos against the group, including hidden camera footage from meetings with multiple Planned Parenthood administrators and partners. Planned Parenthood, as well as a team of hired experts, has said the footage was manipulated and that it proves no wrongdoing of the organization.
Boehner is treading carefully on Planned Parenthood and its fetal tissue controversy, which comes just months after weathering an earlier political storm on abortion where he was forced to cancel a vote on a late-term abortion ban because of inter-party strife.
The Senate voted last month on a measure to defund Planned Parenthood indefinitely, a bill drafted by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa.). The legislation fell short of the 60-vote majority.
Cristina Marcos contributed.