Senate presses ahead with defunding Planned Parenthood

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GOP leaders are moving forward with plans to defund Planned Parenthood, tapping Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) to shape the Senate’s response to mounting undercover video controversy.  

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Tuesday that he has charged Ernst to lead a working group “to craft a measure to deal with these horrendous videos.” The group will meet for the first time Tuesday afternoon in McConnell’s office.

Members will include Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) – both of whom have authored legislation to defund Planned Parenthood.  

The Senate vote to defund the organization will take place before the August recess, McConnell said, though he did not say whether it would be a permanent defunding measure or a temporary “moratorium” while the group is under investigation

“It’s our plan to have a vote on proceeding to a measure that they support sometime before we break for the August recess,” McConnell said. 

That timeline had already been announced by Paul at an anti-abortion rally about an hour earlier on the Capitol grounds.

A vote to defund Planned Parenthood is not expected anytime soon in the House. GOP leaders have said they support defunding the group, but say they are waiting for a stronger bloc of supporters before putting legislation up for a vote in the lower chamber.

Ernst is an ardent foe of Planned Parenthood, which had targeted her during last fall’s elections.

Planned Parenthood’s political arm spent nearly $500,000 on an ad highlighting Ernst’s position on birth control and abortion last September.

The junior Iowa senator was picked to chair the group over Paul, who has seized on the issue during his presidential run.

Senate Democrats continue to dismiss the GOP’s focus on Planned Parenthood.

When asked Tuesday about McConnell’s claims that they have enough votes to pass the legislation, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was doubtful.

“Good luck with that,” Reid said.

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