Planned Parenthood defund language to stay in ObamaCare repeal package

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellGiffords-backed gun control group endorses Toomey, Kirk Republicans say party can’t afford to cut ties to Trump McConnell calls for ObamaCare money to be used for Zika MORE (R-Ky.) on Tuesday dispelled speculation that Republicans might drop a provision defunding Planned Parenthood from an ObamaCare repeal package.

Senate Republican leaders initially wanted to vote on the ObamaCare repeal bill this week, but they’ve had trouble rounding up enough votes in part because moderates have balked at the Planned Parenthood language.

McConnell, however, held course Tuesday and vowed it would not be dropped to make the bill more enticing for Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

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He told reporters the repeal package “will contain a defund of Planned Parenthood,” adding, “we’ll be moving to that after Thanksgiving.”

Senate GOP sources say the package, which will move under special budgetary protections that allow it to pass with a simple-majority vote, still does not have enough support.

As many as eight Republican senators are threatening to vote no either because of the Planned Parenthood language or because of concern it does not go far enough to repeal the landmark healthcare reform law.

Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune (S.D.) on Monday suggested the Planned Parenthood part could be dropped from the bill.

“The primary purpose of this bill is ObamaCare repeal,” he told Politico. “We need to make sure we get 51 votes to get ObamaCare repealed. So if [Planned Parenthood] gets in the way of that at this point we’ll have to take a look at it.”

Thune told reporters Tuesday that Republican leaders are not giving up on the ObamaCare repeal even though some conservatives think it would be better to take no action instead of passing a weak bill.

"We're feeling hopefully optimistic that our members are going to be there to give us the 51 votes necessary to get ObamaCare repeal and Planned Parenthood on the president's desk," he said.

Thune downplayed speculation pushed by Democrats that provisions to repeal the individual and employer mandates can’t survive procedural objections.

“They’re working with the parliamentarian on language and I think we’re confident that we’re going to be able to get there and then it’s just a question of getting 51 votes for it,” he said.

Jordain Carney contributed. 

This story was updated at 5:16 p.m.