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Obama Signs Clean Stopgap Spending Bill; House Panel Advances Separate Defunding Measure

Obama Signs Clean Stopgap Spending Bill; House Panel Advances Separate Defunding Measure

October 1, 2015 — President Obama on Wednesday signed a stopgap spending bill that will not defund Planned Parenthood, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The measure will keep the government funded through Dec. 11 (Mascaro, Los Angeles Times, 9/30).

Background

Following the release of a series of secretly recorded, misleading videos targeting Planned Parenthood, some conservatives have called for Congress to defund the organization. Further, some said they would not support any government spending measure that includes funding for the organization.

The government would have shut down after Sept. 30 if lawmakers had not passed and President Obama had not signed the spending bill (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/30).

Vote Details

According to the Times, the House and Senate on Wednesday each voted to advance the bill. The House passed the bill in a 277-151 vote, while the Senate voted 78-20 to approve the measure (Los Angeles Times, 9/30).

The House had voted 241-185 to add language that would have defunded Planned Parenthood, though the Senate was able to ignore the resolution (Haberkorn, Politico Pro, 9/30).

Defunding Effort Through Reconciliation Advances

In related news, the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday voted 28-23 to pass legislation that would defund Planned Parenthood by using the budget reconciliation process, Politico Pro reports.

Through budget reconciliation, certain legislation can advance in the Senate with a simple majority vote (Haberkorn/Ehley, Politico Pro, 10/1). The Energy and Commerce measure would eventually be combined with other portions of a broader budget reconciliation package (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/30).

The Energy and Commerce measure that advanced Wednesday would strip Planned Parenthood of the funding it receives through Medicaid. According to the Congressional Budget Office, that amounts to about $390 million annually. Meanwhile, the measure would add $235 million in funding for community health centers, The Hill reports.

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) said it was "laughable" to think community health centers would be able to meet an increased demand, noting they already are facing capacity issues (Sullivan, The Hill, 9/30). According to a CBO report, up to 630,000 patients could have reduced access to health services, such as birth control, screening for sexually transmitted infections and other reproductive care if Planned Parenthood is defunded. Further, according to Guttmacher Institute research, Planned Parenthood is the sole safety-net family planning clinic in 103 out of the 491 counties in the U.S. (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/17).

According to Politico Pro, Obama "would certainly veto" the measure if it reaches the White House (Politico Pro, 10/1).

Op-Ed Comments on Latest Hearing on 'Those Heavily Doctored Videos'

In related news, columnist Gail Collins in a New York Times opinion piece denounces Congress' efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, writing, "Ten years ago, did you imagine that Planned Parenthood would be the center of our national political life?"

Collins explains how the House on Wednesday passed a clean spending bill that many conservative lawmakers opposed "because it included funding for Planned Parenthood." Further, she writes the House "has at least three committees investigating Planned Parenthood" following the release of "those heavily doctored videos" that "have been determined to be false, false, false on one count after another." She adds that "the anti-abortion activist who made them has never been invited to a congressional hearing to explain anything."

Collins lambasts the most recent hearing on Planned Parenthood, in which the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform questioned Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Collins notes, "Some critics have claimed the members made no attempt to actually get any information from" Richards "but just made speeches for the cameras." Collins adds, "At least they let Richards into the room," noting that Richards was not invited to a House Judiciary Committee hearing about the organization.

Collins notes that while Richards "explained several times that Planned Parenthood's federal funding was mainly just Medicaid payments for treating low-income patients ... this is a concept that her opponents made it clear they plan to never get their heads around." Further, Collins writes that "committee members are ... sure that Planned Parenthood is replaceable," referring to plans to redirect Planned Parenthood's funding to community health centers. "You can tell them a million times that there aren't nearly enough providers to take care of all those low-income patients" and "tell them that Planned Parenthood wasn't caught doing anything," but "[i]t's hopeless," she writes (Collins, New York Times, 10/1).