GOP on tightrope with Planned Parenthood

GOP on tightrope with Planned Parenthood
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Senate Republicans are treading a narrow path as they seek to defund Planned Parenthood through passage of a healthcare bill.

Cutting off federal funds because of the abortion services provided by the organization is a goal of most congressional Republicans and the Trump administration.

And with majorities in the House and Senate and control of the White House, the goal seems within reach after years of the party being thwarted by Senate Democrats and former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaChicago City Council approves Obama Presidential Center On North Korea, give Trump some credit The mainstream media — the lap dogs of the deep state and propaganda arm of the left MORE.

The problem is that Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — VA reform bill heads to Trump's desk Senate panel to consider ban on prescription drug 'gag clauses' Pressure rising on GOP after Trump–DOJ fight’s latest turn MORE (R-Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — VA reform bill heads to Trump's desk Senators introduce bill to measure progress in opioid fight Dems win nail-biter in charity congressional soccer game MORE (R-Alaska) both may oppose a healthcare bill that cuts off funding to Planned Parenthood.

Republicans would then have to keep on board every other member of the GOP conference, with Vice President Pence breaking a 50-50 tie in the Senate.

GOP leaders acknowledge the tough situation.

“The goal is, of course, to get 50 senators and the vice president, so we’ll try to figure out how we make that happen,” Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThunePoll: 8 in 10 people in key states concerned about driverless cars Hillicon Valley: Mnuchin urges antitrust review of tech | Progressives want to break up Facebook | Classified election security briefing set for Tuesday | Tech CEOs face pressure to appear before Congress Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA MORE (S.D.), the No. 3 Senate Republican, told The Hill.

“I think that’s going to be the challenge: How do we put together and assemble 50 Republicans plus the vice president to get something across the finish line?” said Thune, who expects the Senate will keep House language defunding Planned Parenthood.

Republicans are using special budgetary rules to prevent Democrats from filibustering the healthcare bill, making it the perfect vehicle to pass legislation defunding Planned Parenthood.

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinHouse easily passes prison reform bill backed by Trump This week: House GOP regroups after farm bill failure Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Trump hits federally funded clinics with new abortion restrictions MORE (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, acknowledged on Tuesday that if the GOP is able to use reconciliation, his caucus won’t have the votes to stop them.

“If it’s reconciliation and they have 51 Republicans, then it’s the end of the story,” he told The Hill.

The real question is whether the GOP can afford to lose Collins and Murkowski.

Collins said she doesn’t understand why the two issues are even being linked. Murkowski has said that she does not believe Planned Parenthood should be part of the healthcare debate. 

In 2015, the two senators offered an amendment on an ObamaCare replacement bill striking language cutting off Planned Parenthood’s federal funding. Their effort failed and Collins voted against the bill, though Murkowski supported it.

Collins said she would offer a similar amendment to the Senate’s bill if it defunds Planned Parenthood. She demurred, however, when pressed if she would ultimately vote against the ObamaCare replacement bill if her effort fails.

“There are many issues that are going to be involved in this bill that I care about; that is one of them, but there are many others,” she said.

Neither Collins nor Murkowski is part of the healthcare working group convened by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell says he backs Mueller probe after classified briefing Overnight Finance: Trump signs Dodd-Frank rollback | Snubs key Dems at ceremony | Senate confirms banking regulator | Lawmakers lash out on Trump auto tariffs Senate Dems’ campaign chief ‘welcomes’ midterm support from Clintons MORE (R-Ky.), which met again on Tuesday. Both Collins and Senate GOP leadership have downplayed their exclusion.

Forcing a fight over Planned Parenthood would also put a focus on Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerKennedy retirement rumors shift into overdrive McConnell: Midterms will be 'very challenging' for GOP Singer Jason Mraz: Too much political 'combat' in Washington MORE (R-Nev.), who is up for reelection in 2018 in a state won by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonComey: Trump's 'Spygate' claims are made up Clapper: Trump distorting my comments is Orwellian Mueller probing Roger Stone's finances: report MORE in 2016.

Heller sparked criticism from both conservatives and liberals after he said at a recent town hall that he has “no problem” with federal funding for Planned Parenthood and would “protect” it.

A spokeswoman walked back Heller’s statement, noting he does not support funding for organizations that provide abortions. A 1976 statute known as the Hyde Amendment bars federal funds from covering abortions and has been included in annual appropriations bills.

A survey from the left-leaning Public Policy Polling found 59 percent of voters in 13 GOP-held districts won by Clinton oppose defunding Planned Parenthood, compared with 35 percent who support it.

Conservatives are pressing to take care of defunding Planned Parenthood, though Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzPro-Trump super PAC raises .5 million in 6 weeks Trump has exposed Democratic hypocrisy on prison reform Tapper lists 'conspiracy theories' Trump has shared MORE (R-Texas) acknowledged the legislation has to be able to “command the support of 50 senators.”

Cruz and GOP Sens. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeDenial of services to same-sex couples can harm their health GOP Senate primary heats up in Montana Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA MORE (Utah) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulOvernight Energy: Reporters barred from Day 2 of EPA summit | Dems blame Trump for gas price increases | Massachusetts to get new offshore wind farm Senate Democrats look for traction on gas prices GOP Senate primary heats up in Montana MORE (Ky.) teamed up with members of the House Freedom Caucus earlier this year to demand “full repeal” of ObamaCare.

The Senate bill is not likely to alter as much of ObamaCare as the bill approved by the House or the 2015 bill.

Paul has publicly fretted that the Senate’s parliamentarian could cut what he thinks made the House legislation palatable.

“If all the good stuff is lost and we’re left with just a subsidy bill ... I’m not real excited about that,” he told reporters last week.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynHillicon Valley: Experts worry North Korea will retaliate with hacks over summit | FBI works to disrupt Russian botnet | Trump officials look to quell anger over ZTE | Obama makes case for tighter regs on tech Senate GOP sounds alarm over Trump's floated auto tariffs Administration works to assuage critics over ZTE deal MORE (R-Texas) said he supports using healthcare reform to defund Planned Parenthood but hedged when pressed if it would be in the Senate’s final product.

“You know, I can’t tell you everything,” he said when asked if the Senate bill would defund the organization. “That’s been consistent, but we need 51 votes.”