Senate Democrats target vulnerable Republicans over Planned Parenthood

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) is stepping up its attacks against vulnerable Republicans who have voted to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

The DSCC’s targets include Sens. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanMajor US port target of attempted cyber attack Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Officials want action on cyberattacks Officials urge Congress to consider fining companies that fail to report cyber incidents MORE (R-Ohio), Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyottePoll: Potential Sununu-Hassan matchup in N.H. a dead heat  Democrats facing tough reelections back bipartisan infrastructure deal Sununu seen as top recruit in GOP bid to reclaim Senate MORE (R-N.H.), and Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyBlack women look to build upon gains in coming elections Watch live: GOP senators present new infrastructure proposal Sasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote MORE (R-Pa.), all of whom face difficult reelection bids in critical swing states in 2016.

ADVERTISEMENT

Portman, Ayotte and Toomey joined most Republicans in voting last week to cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which is under fire after a series of undercover videos showed officials within the organization discussing the price of fetal tissue.

The attacks on Planned Parenthood are perhaps the most serious the group has ever faced, and it has reacted by signing on a public relations firm and counterattacking aggressively. The push by the DSCC shows Democrats believe they can also go on the offense on the issue by casting Republican votes against Planned Parenthood as votes against women’s health.

The DSCC this week will launch a five-figure "GOP Shutdown Watch" campaign featuring Twitter and Facebook ads and rapid-response news alerts “highlighting the latest developments in the Republican push to attack women’s health and shutdown the government.”

The DSCC media push is also targeting Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainWhoopi Goldberg signs four-year deal with ABC to stay on 'The View' Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid Meghan McCain: Country has not 'healed' from Trump under Biden MORE (R-Ariz.), who has attracted a primary challenger, and Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 White House debates vaccines for air travel Senate lawmakers let frustration show with Blinken MORE (R-Ky.), who is running for president and senator simultaneously.

“Time and again, Republican Senators have voted to defund Planned Parenthood and other women’s healthcare programs, and now they need to answer if they will shut down the government to score cheap political points at the expense of women across the country,” DSCC National Press Secretary Sadie Weiner said in a statement. 

National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Andrea Bozek accused Democrats of trying to drum up a controversy over a government shutdown.

"Democrats need to stop cheerleading a government shutdown,” she said. “Voters didn't fall for their manufactured crises in 2014, and they won't in 2016. None of these senators are remotely considering shutting down the government. It's sad, but not surprising, that Democrats would exercise such blatant disregard for the truth."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellWe don't need platinum to solve the debt ceiling crisis The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble House passes standalone bill to provide B for Israel's Iron Dome MORE (R-Ky.) has pledged that there will be no shutdowns on his watch. 

However, a group of conservatives in the House are vowing not to vote for any government funding bill that includes Planned Parenthood, potentially creating a showdown over Planned Parenthood funding that’s tied to a government shutdown this fall.

McCain has openly mulled over whether the GOP should use every tool at its disposal, including a government shutdown, to strip funding from Planned Parenthood.

“I don't like a government shutdown, but this is a clear case of totally improper use of taxpayers' dollars,” he told NPR earlier this month. “I have an obligation to the taxpayers of Arizona.”

While the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood has led to some difficulties for Democrats — Hillary Clinton labeled the videos disturbing — Democrats believe they’re on solid ground in backing funding for the group. They point to a survey from Democratic firm Hart Research Associates that shows 63 percent of voters oppose defunding the organization.

The same survey found that a strong majority of voters are less likely to support Ayotte, Toomey and Portman if the government shuts down over the issue.

--This report was updated at 11:41 a.m.