A measure to defund Planned Parenthood failed in the Senate on Monday in a 53-46 vote, likely punting the issue into the fall debate over preventing a government shutdown.
Republicans fell short of the 60 votes needed to move forward with the legislation, which was fast-tracked to the floor after the release of undercover videos that show Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue from abortions.
Only two Democrats, Sens. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyRepublicans may regret restricting reproductive rights Sanders traveling to Iowa, Indiana to pitch Biden's spending package Supreme Court battle could wreak havoc with Biden's 2020 agenda MORE (Ind.) and Joe ManchinJoe ManchinBriahna Joy Gray: Push toward major social spending amid pandemic was 'short-lived' Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Emissions heading toward pre-pandemic levels Biden discusses agenda with Schumer, Pelosi ahead of pivotal week MORE (W.Va.), voted for the legislation, while two Republicans, Sen. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkDuckworth announces reelection bid Brave new world: Why we need a Senate Human Rights Commission Senate majority battle snags Biden Cabinet hopefuls MORE (Ill.) and Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse to act on debt ceiling next week White House warns GOP of serious consequences on debt ceiling Lindsey Graham: Police need 'to take a firm line' with Sept. 18 rally attendees MORE (R-Ky.), voted against it.
McConnell voted no to preserve the option of bringing up the bill again. Kirk, who is facing a tough reelection race in 2016, had signaled he was likely to break with his party on the vote, citing the preventive health services that Planned Parenthood provides.
Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Tight security for Capitol rally; Biden agenda slows Trump offers sympathy for those charged with Jan. 6 offenses Lindsey Graham: Police need 'to take a firm line' with Sept. 18 rally attendees MORE (R-S.C.), who is running for president, was the only member to miss the vote.
McConnell and other supporters of the defunding bill said it would protect women’s access to medical services because the roughly $500 million in federal funding would be redistributed to other organizations, such as community health centers.
“Instead of subsidizing a political group, this bill would ensure funds continue to flow to community health centers and hospitals that provide more comprehensive health services — and have many more facilities nationwide,” McConnell said Monday on the Senate floor.
Republicans noted that there are 21 million people served by community health centers across the country, compare with the 2.7 million people served by Planned Parenthood.
Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDemocrats say Biden must get more involved in budget fight Biden looks to climate to sell economic agenda Justice Breyer issues warning on remaking Supreme Court: 'What goes around comes around' MORE (D-Nev.) and other Democrats portrayed the legislation as an attack on women’s health and said community health centers would not be able to fill the gaps.
“It’s our responsibility in the Senate to ensure that American women have access to care,” Reid said. “It’s our obligation to protect our wives our sisters, our daughters, our granddaughters. Protect them from the absurd policies of a Republican Party that has lost its moral compass.”
Sen. Angus KingAngus KingSenate backers of new voting rights bill push for swift passage Stacey Abrams backs Senate Democrats' voting rights compromise NY Democrat tests positive for COVID-19 in latest House breakthrough case MORE (I-Maine) suggested that the effort was misguided, comparing it to “attacking Brazil after Pearl Harbor. It's a vigorous response, but it's the wrong target.”
The Senate vote mostly fell along party lines, with only Manchin and Donnelly breaking from the Democrats.
Donnelly in a statement said he was "very concerned" by what he had seen in the Planned Parenthood videos.
“While Planned Parenthood clinics in Indiana do not partake in fetal tissue donation and were found to be following the law, today’s vote is about Planned Parenthood clinics around the country. I cannot in good faith support federal funding for this organization until the questions of whether other clinics are complying with federal and state laws are answered," Donnelly said in a statement to The Hill.
The Senate vote Monday is just the beginning of what is expected to be a long fight over funding for the group.
The anti-abortion group behind the videos, the Center for Medical Progress, says that it will be releasing as many as 10 more in the weeks to come, which could continue to fan the flames of the debate.
Some Republicans already have their sights on the government funding debate in September, raising the prospect of a government shutdown if the sides cannot agree on whether to fund the group or not.
The White House has already vowed that President Obama would veto any spending that strips funding from Planned Parenthood.
But 18 House conservatives wrote a letter to Republican leaders saying they will not vote for any spending bill that includes Planned Parenthood funding, and that number could grow during the August recess.
Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsWelcome to ground zero of climate chaos A tale of two chambers: Trump's power holds in House, wanes in Senate Bipartisan blip: Infrastructure deal is last of its kind without systemic change MORE (R-Maine) and Kirk had introduced separate legislation that they were planning to offer as an amendment to the Planned Parenthood bill if it overcame Monday’s hurdle.
Their proposal would have required the Department of Justice to investigate if Planned Parenthood or any facilities violated federal law. It would also only cut off federal funding to the organization's facilities that profited off of harvesting fetal tissue.
The Maine Republican suggested that her proposal would be a more “targeted” approach compared to a blanket ban on federal funding.
“The bill that has been proposed by several of my colleagues would require women to give up the health provider of their choice when we don’t yet know all of the facts about Planned Parenthood’s actions,” Collins said, adding that she has “received assurances from the Majority Leader that should the motion to proceed succeed, that there will be ample opportunity to offer amendments.”
The Planned Parenthood debate was stirred by a series of undercover videos that show officials with the group discussing the price of fetal tissue for medical research.
While Planned Parenthood notes the officials are discussing compensation for the sales rather than profit, the videos have put the group on the defensive and prompted it to hire a crisis communications firm.
The group’s president, Cecile Richards, apologized for the “tone” in the first video, where an official was filmed discussing fetal tissue over wine and salad.
- This story was last updated at 6:43 p.m.