Anti-abortion groups fuming over GOP failure to defund Planned Parenthood

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Anti-abortion groups fuming over the Republican failure to defund Planned Parenthood as part of ObamaCare repeal are eyeing tax reform as the next vehicle for their cause.

The groups want Republicans to defund Planned Parenthood in a tax reform package that the GOP plans to move through the Senate under special budgetary rules that protect it from a Democratic filibuster.

“The failures to pass repeal and replace, including redirecting those dollars to other providers that don’t do abortions, has been incredibly disappointing to us,” said Marilyn Musgrave, vice president of government affairs at the Susan B. Anthony List, a D.C.-based group that works to elect anti-abortion members of Congress.

{mosads}“It didn’t happen under health care, so now we’re asking that under the 2018 reconciliation bill Congress redirect these dollars.”

Some Republicans don’t want to include the Planned Parenthood language in the new package, however, for fear it could hurt their chances of passing the tax bill.

“I don’t think we should do anything that compromises passing tax reform,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas). He suggested that Planned Parenthood could be addressed later, when Republicans move back to health care.

Even die-hard conservatives aren’t endorsing the idea of pairing the Planned Parenthood issue with tax reform.

“I don’t see that happening,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, a group that has led the charge on defunding Planned Parenthood.

“I mean, I’m a big one on defunding Planned Parenthood and pro-life measures, but I don’t see it being included in reconciliation instructions.”

Like Cornyn, he said Republicans could return to the issue when they get back to ObamaCare repeal.

But such promises are of little value to anti-abortion groups.

That’s “not acceptable,” Musgrave said.

“It’s a reasonable ask from the pro-life community, and this is what we’re saying to the most pro-life Congress ever. It didn’t get done on health-care reform, so we expect it in this reconciliation bill.”

Musgrave said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser has met with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) over the matter.

While promoting tax reform this week, however, GOP leaders have not indicated that language defunding Planned Parenthood would be a part of the bill.

Ryan’s office did not respond to request for comment.

It’s also unclear if such language would meet the Senate’s strict rules for reconciliation. The Senate parliamentarian ruled earlier this year that defunding language included in the GOP’s health-care bill didn’t meet the rules and would need 60 votes for passage. It’s possible that a similar issue could arise if the language were added to the tax-reform bill.

Other anti-abortion groups, including Students for Life and March for Life, which organizes a march on D.C. every year to protest abortion, are pushing for Republicans to defund Planned Parenthood through tax reform.

“We call upon this Congress and Administration to be true to their promises to fix abortion aspects of the healthcare law and work to redirect funding for Planned Parenthood through tax reform,” March for Life President Jeanne Mancini said in a statement to The Hill.

Students for Life President Kristan Hawkins indicated the anti-abortion movement is getting frustrated with Congress’s failures to defund Planned Parenthood.

“It’s been incredibly frustrating. If this was a priority for leadership, they would have found a way to get this done. This is something we’ve been talking about for many years,” Hawkins said.

“Now we’re hopeful … about trying to add a defunding Planned Parenthood measure into the new tax reform plan.”

Even some of the loudest voices on Capitol Hill against Planned Parenthood, however, will not commit to including a defunding measure with tax reform — perhaps underlining the importance of the tax measure to the GOP.

“Well, obviously, the defunding provision is critically important to many of us and to a lot of unborn children, so we’re hoping to see it placed in a vehicle that will come to fruition,” said Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), chairman of the House Pro-Life Caucus.

Asked if that could be tax reform, he replied: “I know that’s certainly something I would support, but I’m obviously also strongly supportive of the tax bill at this point.”

Other Republicans sounded a bit more open to the possibility of adding Planned Parenthood defunding to the tax package.

“I would actually support that anywhere I could get it,” said Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), a leader on anti-abortion issues in the Senate, when asked if defunding Planned Parenthood should be included in tax reform.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said: “I have long led the efforts in the Senate to defund Planned Parenthood, and I think we should use every available means to do so.”

Jacqueline Ayers, director of legislative affairs for the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said it’s a risk whenever Republicans use reconciliation that they’ll try to attach defunding language.

“We are always monitoring for the possibility that the next reconciliation bill, while it should stay focused on taxes, could attempt to also go after health care and defunding Planned Parenthood,” Ayers said.

“If there is a goal to have a successful agenda around taxes and reforming and overhauling the tax system, putting in poison pills and unpopular provisions like defunding Planned Parenthood would stop them in their tracks once again. I think that would do more to create tension and make it more likely they would have another failed agenda item.”

Tags James Lankford John Cornyn Paul Ryan Ted Cruz Trent Franks
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