Pence breaks tie, allowing Senate to revoke Obama order on abortion provider funding
Vice President Mike Pence returned to the Senate Thursday afternoon — the second time in one day — to cast a tie-breaking vote on legislation to undo an Obama-era regulation on funding for abortion providers.
Pence cast the deciding 51st vote in favor of nixing the rule, after the legislation stalled in a 50-50 tie.
Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine) sided with Democrats to vote against repealing the Obama-era rule, prompting the need for the vice president to break the tie.
The vote marks the third time Pence has had to break a tie since becoming vice president.
Republicans are using the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to roll back some Obama-era regulations with a simple majority vote.
Democrats spent hours on the Senate floor ahead of Thursday’s final vote, blasting Republicans and warning that the move would negatively impact women’s access to healthcare.
“I want Senate Republicans who are about to take this vote, and Vice President Pence, to be very clear on what they are about to do,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the No. 3 Senate Democrat. “As a direct result of their choices today, extreme politicians in states across the country will have greater power to take away women’s choices.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) argued that the resolution went against President Trump’s campaign pledges and would limit health care in rural areas.
“I would urge my Republican friends, particularly those in rural states where this could really hurt, please think about it,” he said. “We only need one more vote to stop this bill, which would allow states to dramatically reduce access for women to essential health care services.”
Former President Obama’s rule blocked states from defunding healthcare providers for political reasons.
The regulation required that state and local governments distribute federal Title X funding for services related to contraception, fertility, pregnancy care and cervical cancer screenings to health providers, regardless of whether they also preform abortions.
Republicans argue that getting rid of the regulation gives states more flexibility and pushes back against Obama-era regulatory overreach.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said it was the Obama administration’s move that hurt “local communities.”
“It substituted Washington’s judgment for the needs of real people,” he said ahead of the vote. “This regulation is an unnecessary restriction on states that know their residents a lot better than the federal government.”
Pence last month cast the tie-breaking vote to confirm Betsy DeVos to lead the Education Department. Murkowski and Collins also joined all Democrats in opposing her nomination, necessitating the tiebreaker.
Prior to that, the last time a vice president broke a tie in the Senate was 2008, when then-Vice President Dick Cheney voted on tax legislation.