No Planned Parenthood cuts in GOP funding bill

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Republicans have not included any measures related to defunding Planned Parenthood in their most recent offer to Democrats on the spending bill, according to a Democratic aide. 

A Republican aide noted that a separate bill repealing ObamaCare that the Senate is expected to vote on Thursday would defund Planned Parenthood.

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“The fight over Planned Parenthood is focused on the Senate and the reconciliation process,” the GOP aide said.  

That legislation will not become law, however, as President Obama is certain to veto it if it reaches his desk. Republicans do not have the votes to override Obama in the House or Senate.

The issue of defunding Planned Parenthood has faded since the summer, when it was brought to the fore by the release of undercover videos denouncing the group.   

Even members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which previously vowed to oppose any spending bill with funding for Planned Parenthood, said Wednesday that they now support a compromise that would allow states to decide whether to defund the group. 

They are supporting a letter to House Republican leadership from the Pro-Life Caucus that calls for a measure that would withhold funds from the federal Medicaid agency “unless they cease penalizing states that wish to remove abortion providers, like Planned Parenthood, from their Medicaid networks.”

Several Republican-led states have tried to cut Planned Parenthood out of their Medicaid programs, but have been stymied by litigation citing a provision of federal law that gives enrollees a choice of any qualified health provider. In their proposal, conservatives are trying to get past those court cases and allow states to successfully defund Planned Parenthood. 

“What we have proposed is a compromise that would let the states make that decision [on defunding],” conservative Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) told reporters Wednesday. 

On Monday, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) acknowledged that the winds had shifted on Planned Parenthood, especially since the terrorist attacks in Paris. 

“I do not hear people shutting the government down over it right now,” McCarthy said. “I think security is becoming the top issue I’m hearing, especially in the last two weeks.”

The shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado last week has also opened Republicans up to Democratic criticism that their rhetoric about the group contributed to the tragedy. 

Before an Oct. 1 deadline to fund the government, 31 conservatives signed a letter from Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) vowing to oppose any spending bill that did not fully defund Planned Parenthood. 

Since then, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) resigned, under conservative pressure. McCarthy initially emerged as his successor before dropping his bid, which paved the way for Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to be elected to the post.

Asked about the shift, Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), one of the signers of that letter, said that the media had misunderstood the Freedom Caucus’s willingness to compromise. 

“We are always open to [compromise] and you are always wrong about us about that,” Labrador said. “[W]e’re going to take the most conservative position, but if somebody comes up with an idea that is better or is more likely to get more votes, we're always willing to work on that.”

Labrador added: “The Pro-Life Caucus came out with a letter with three different bills that they would support and we thought that would be an acceptable alternative to just complete defunding of Planned Parenthood.”

Huelskamp said that over 100 lawmakers have signed the letter. 

In addition to the measure giving states a choice in defunding Planned Parenthood, the letter calls for two other provisions. 

One would seek to strengthen protections for organizations that do not want to cover abortions and doctors who do not want to provide them. The other provision reduces funds for international family planning and cuts off funds for the United Nations Population Fund, an entity that the letter says supports China’s “coercive birth limitation policy.”

“We urge you to robustly defend and advance the inclusion of these critically important policies in the end of the year spending package,” the letter concludes. 

It does not include a specific vow to vote against the spending bill if the measures are not included.