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.

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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 ObamaHarriet Tubman on the bill would be smart for the president, his party and the nation The US must not turn its back on refugees Gorka calls Trump's comments on Mexican immigrants ‘fake news’  MORE.

The problem is that Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsWhite House weighs clawing back State, foreign aid funding The Hill's Morning Report: Dems have a majority in the Senate (this week) Overnight Defense: Pompeo creates 'action group' for Iran policy | Trump escalates intel feud | Report pegs military parade cost at M MORE (R-Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThe Hill's Morning Report: Dems have a majority in the Senate (this week) Senate gets to work in August — but many don’t show up Trump nominee won't say if he supports funding agency he was selected to run 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 ThuneSenate gets to work in August — but many don’t show up GOP leader criticizes Republican senators for not showing up to work Ex-Trump adviser: Shutdown 'not worst idea in the world' 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 DurbinDems to challenge Kavanaugh for White House records 2020 hopefuls skeptical of criminal justice deal with Trump Sentencing reform deal heats up, pitting Trump against reliable allies 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 McConnellTrump stays out of Arizona's ugly and costly GOP fight Sen. Warner to introduce amendment limiting Trump’s ability to revoke security clearances The Hill's 12:30 Report 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 HellerThe farm bill gives Congress a chance to act on the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act GOP’s midterm strategy takes shape Battle of the billionaires drives Nevada contest MORE (R-Nev.), who is up for reelection in 2018 in a state won by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonArizona GOP Senate candidate defends bus tour with far-right activist Santorum: Mueller could avoid charges of McCarthyism by investigating DOJ, FBI Giuliani claims McGahn was a 'strong witness' for Trump 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 CruzCruz calls out O'Rourke for supporting NFL players' protests during anthem Beto O’Rourke: Term limits can help keep politicians from turning into a--holes Election Countdown: GOP worries House majority endangered by top of ticket | Dems make history in Tuesday's primaries | Parties fight for Puerto Rican vote in Florida | GOP lawmakers plan 'Freedom Tour' 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 Lee2020 hopefuls skeptical of criminal justice deal with Trump Sentencing reform deal heats up, pitting Trump against reliable allies Senate gets to work in August — but many don’t show up MORE (Utah) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulArizona GOP Senate candidate defends bus tour with far-right activist Trump plays 'quick round of golf' with Rand Paul in New Jersey Hillicon Valley: Trump escalates feud with intel critics | Tesla shares fall after troubling Musk interview | House panel considers subpoena for Twitter's Jack Dorsey | Why Turkish citizens are breaking their iPhones 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 CornynSen. Warner to introduce amendment limiting Trump’s ability to revoke security clearances Sentencing reform deal heats up, pitting Trump against reliable allies Rand Paul to ask Trump to lift sanctions on Russian leaders 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.”