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Senate Dems present united front on GOP abortion fight

A handful of Senate Democrats are presenting a united front against new reproductive-rights restrictions being pushed by House Republicans.

The House on Friday, during its debate of a spending bill to keep the government running past March 4, approved an amendment by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) stripping federal funding from Planned Parenthood, which receives about $350 million each year in federal, state and local grants.

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The newly empowered House Republicans are pushing ahead with a slate of anti-abortion legislation, and a few Senate Democrats have been fighting back hard for weeks.

Democratic Sens. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerBottom line Trump administration halting imports of cotton, tomatoes from Uighur region of China Biden inaugural committee to refund former senator's donation due to foreign agent status MORE (Calif.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Gillibrand2024 GOP White House hopefuls lead opposition to Biden Cabinet Manhattan law firm named as lead in Cuomo impeachment investigation Senate Democrats call on DHS for details on response to Portland protests MORE (N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart Franken#MeWho? The hypocritical silence of Kamala Harris The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate Dems face unity test; Tanden nomination falls Gillibrand: Cuomo allegations 'completely unacceptable' MORE (Minn.) and Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenLawmakers express horror at latest Capitol attack Five things to watch on Biden infrastructure plan Democrats wrestle over tax hikes for infrastructure MORE (N.H.) have promised recently to block the Republican agenda to limit abortion services and defund Planned Parenthood.

Asked by reporters Thursday if the Senate had the votes to defeat Pence’s battle against Planned Parenthood, Franken offered a one-word answer: “Yes."

Following the recess week, the Senate will produce a spending bill that will look much different from the House version, which blocks funding to implement the healthcare reform law. With the prospect of a government shutdown looming over the continuing resolution, it’s unclear if Republicans will back down on defunding Planned Parenthood.

Republicans have made two other abortion bills a top priority. Reps. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) and Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.) introduced a bill that would bar the healthcare reform law from funding abortions and expand “conscience protections” to healthcare workers and entities that object to abortion care on religious or moral grounds. Another bill from Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) would set wider abortion restrictions, including a ban on tax breaks for private health plans that cover abortion.

Democrats are accusing Republicans of abandoning an election mandate to focus on jobs and the economy.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), one of three freshman Democrats, said abortion rarely came up during last year’s campaign; he’s surprised Republicans unleashed an abortion agenda early into the new Congress.


“I am astonished because it runs so contrary to what the mandate of this last election was,” Blumenthal told The Hill.

Pitts, whose selection to lead the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health subpanel was strongly urged by anti-abortion-rights groups, said that Democrats should have seen this coming. He pointed out that the Republicans’ “Pledge to America,” released in September, explicitly laid out the party’s plans to enact legislation restricting abortion.

“We will establish a government-wide prohibition on taxpayer funding of abortion and subsidies for insurance coverage that includes abortion,” the GOP wrote in its 48-page document, which mentioned abortion three times. “This prohibition would go further and enact into law what is known as the Hyde Amendment as well as ban other instances of federal subsidies for abortion services. We will also enact into law conscience protections for healthcare providers, including doctors, nurses and hospitals.”

Pitts, stressing that the abortion bills are just a small part of GOP business in the House, said he doesn’t think Republicans risk upsetting voters by focusing on abortion issues.

“The social-issue conservatives are a part of our constituency,” Pitts said in an interview.

However, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) thinks otherwise.

“I think this legislation has awoken the sleeping giant of my generation,” Wasserman Schultz said. “It’s been complacent for so many years, taking the right to choose for granted, thinking it’s never under assault.”