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Senate To Vote Monday on Defunding Bill; White House Affirms Support for Planned Parenthood

Senate To Vote Monday on Defunding Bill; White House Affirms Support for Planned Parenthood

July 31, 2015 — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday scheduled a Monday procedural vote on legislation that would defund Planned Parenthood, The Hill's "Floor Action" reports.

According to "Floor Action," it is unlikely legislation will garner the 60 votes needed for it to pass (Carney, "Floor Action," The Hill, 7/30).

Background

Lawmakers in the Senate who oppose abortion rights introduced the measure on Tuesday. The bill would cut off over $500 million in federal funding for Planned Parenthood and redirect the funds to other women's health programs. The bill was introduced following the release of a series of misleading videos targeting Planned Parenthood (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/29).

The videos, which depict Planned Parenthood staff discussing fetal tissue donation, were released by an antiabortion-rights group called the Center for Medical Progress. CMP secretly filmed the videos by meeting with Planned Parenthood staff while posing as buyers of fetal tissue (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/30). According to "Floor Action," CMP released another video targeting the organization on Thursday ("Floor Action," The Hill, 7/30).

Planned Parenthood has stated that the videos were heavily edited and that the filmed officials did not conduct any illegal activities. The organization said it does not profit from fetal tissue donations and only receives reimbursement for costs associated with such donations, which is legal. Meanwhile, supporters of Planned Parenthood said the videos are part of a decades-long campaign against the organization (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/24).

Support for Defunding Planned Parenthood Through Budget Process Grows Among Conservatives

According to Politico, support for the defunding Planned Parenthood through the budget process is growing among conservative lawmakers who oppose abortion rights (Everett/Haberkorn, Politico, 7/30).

Conservative lawmakers in the House and Senate have voiced opposition against any government spending measures that allocate funding for Planned Parenthood. Such opposition could lead to another government shutdown dispute in the fall. Congress faces a Sept. 30 deadline to pass legislation to keep the government in operation (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/30).

According to Politico, support for stripping funding for Planned Parenthood during the budget process has grown to include more moderate lawmakers, such as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Further, Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) said dozens of conservative lawmakers in the House will oppose any legislation that includes funding for the organization this fall. Mulvaney stated his opposition to continuing Planned Parenthood funding in a letter Wednesday, signed by 18 lawmakers, that was submitted to House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) (Politico, 7/30).

However, some lawmakers who oppose abortion rights are rejecting calls to force a government shutdown over the issue. For example, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who chairs a Senate Appropriations Committee subcommittee that oversees funding for health care programs, said he does not think antiabortion-rights lawmakers will force a government shutdown "over this." Similarly, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who chairs the House Appropriations Committee's subcommittee for health, said he does not think the issue would "stop" a continuing resolution from passing. He said, "A lot of these threats are from people who won't vote for the CR or final deal anyway, so they don't carry too much credibility" (Scott/Owens, National Journal, 7/30).

Sens. Work on New Defunding Measure

In related news, Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) are working on another proposal that would strip funding from Planned Parenthood, National Journal reports.

Specifically, the measure would focus on defunding Planned Parenthood clinics that participate in fetal tissue collection. Collins said, "Cutting off family-planning funding for Planned Parenthood across the board would cause women to lose their health care provider ... There is no system in place to accommodate the screenings and the needs of millions of American women who rely on Planned Parenthood."

According to National Journal, it is not clear whether congressional leaders would support the proposal (Fox, National Journal, 7/30).

White House Calls Videos 'Fraudulent'

In other related news, White House press secretary Josh Earnest on Thursday defended Planned Parenthood and said President Obama would oppose efforts to defund the organization, the Washington Times reports.

Earnest said of the videos, "There's ample reason to think that this is merely the tried-and-true tactic that we have seen from extremists on the right to edit this video and selectively release an edited version of the video that grossly distorts the position of the person who is actually speaking." He added, "Based on the essentially fraudulent way in which these videos have been released, there's not a lot of evidence right now that Planned Parenthood hasn't lived up to" its ethical standards (Boyer/Dinan, Washington Times, 7/30).

Further, Earnest said Obama "will not support another effort by Republicans to try to defund an organization that offers important and needed health care services for millions of women across the country" (Dennis, "POTUSOperandi," Roll Call, 7/30).

Ind. Investigation Finds Planned Parenthood Free of Wrongdoing

In more related news, an Indiana investigation into Planned Parenthood clinics in the state cleared the organization of any wrongdoing in the way they handle fetal tissue, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports.

According to the AP/Chronicle, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) on July 16 launched an investigation into the clinics, which are located in Bloomington, Indianapolis and Merrillville. The state Department of Health on Thursday said the investigation found no proof of the clinics violating any laws. As a result, the department said it closed the complaint against the facilities.

Betty Cockrum, president of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, said the organization maintains "compliance with all laws and regulations as an imperative" and is "pleased this unfounded complaint is resolved." She added that Indiana-based clinics do not participate in fetal tissue procurement (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 7/30).