Supreme Court strikes down Louisiana abortion restrictions
Senate Republicans call on DOJ to investigate Planned Parenthood loans
Senate Republicans are calling on the Justice Department to investigate Planned Parenthood centers over loans they received under the coronavirus stimulus package as the group faces increasing scrutiny from the GOP.
Twenty-seven senators led by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) alleged in a letter to Attorney General William Barr on Thursday that the $80 million in loans Planned Parenthood affiliates received under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) should not have gone to the sites.
"We write to urge you to investigate the activities of dozens of Planned Parenthood affiliates that reportedly applied for and received approximately $80 million in loans from the Paycheck Protection Program, despite actual knowledge that they were ineligible for such loans," they wrote.
"It was not designed to give government funds to politicized, partisan abortion providers like Planned Parenthood," the senators added. "The funds in the program are not unlimited and were depleted once already because of high demand."
The pressure from the 27 senators compounds on scrutiny over Planned Parenthood, which had already been urged by the Small Business Association (SBA) to return the funds its affiliates received.
The SBA sent letters to a number of the affiliates this week saying they were ineligible for the funds due to the PPP's size standards and that the money should be returned.
The loans from the PPP, which was created under the $2.2 trillion CARES Act that was signed into law in March, are intended for businesses and nonprofits with no more than 500 employees, though the legislation allows some flexibility for larger firms to receive funds. The SBA also has implemented restrictions on how affiliates from one organization can qualify.
The argument from the senators and the SBA is that Planned Parenthood's affiliates are subject to enough discretion from the larger organization that they should be deemed ineligible for the loans.
"The implementing interim final rule, issued by the SBA on April 15, 2020, explicitly stated that the SBA's affiliation rules apply to the new Paycheck Protection Program, which excludes organizations like Planned Parenthood that employ its type of governance and affiliation structure and exceed the cap on total employees," the senators wrote.
Planned Parenthood has pushed back against the arguments from the GOP, accusing them of launching a "clear political attack on Planned Parenthood health centers and access to reproductive health care."
"It has nothing to do with Planned Parenthood health care organizations' eligibility for COVID-19 relief efforts, and everything to do with the Trump administration using a public health crisis to advance a political agenda and distract from their own failures in protecting the American public from the spread of COVID-19," Jacqueline Ayers, Planned Parenthood Federation of America's vice president of government relations and public policy, said in a statement.
"It is also just the latest salvo in the Trump administration's long history of targeting Planned Parenthood, and trying to severely limit access to sexual and reproductive health care," she added.
The GOP's complaints over the loans received by the Planned Parenthood affiliates adds a new layer of scrutiny over the government assistance program, which had already come under fire after it was revealed that large companies like Shake Shack and the Los Angeles Lakers received aid. Still, the government is expected to negotiate some extension for the PPP to give small businesses more time to spend funds.
"I'm not sure it's that long but I've spoken with the SBA committee and there is bipartisan support so we're working on that," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said this week.