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Conservative Spending Bill Proposal Does Not Target Planned Parenthood; Senate To Vote on Amendments to Reconciliation Bill

Conservative Spending Bill Proposal Does Not Target Planned Parenthood; Senate To Vote on Amendments to Reconciliation Bill

December 3, 2015 — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday said the latest conservative proposal for a government spending bill did not include any language aimed at defunding Planned Parenthood, Reuters reports.

According to Reuters, Congress must pass a spending measure by Dec. 11 to avoid a government shutdown (Cornwell, Reuters, 12/2).

Background

Earlier this year, Congress passed and President Obama signed a stopgap spending bill to keep the government funded through Dec. 11. The bill includes funding for Planned Parenthood. When the bill was debated, some conservatives said they would not support any government spending measure that includes funding for the organization.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in November confirmed that the Senate would move ahead with a vote on legislation (HR 3762) that would use the budget reconciliation process to defund Planned Parenthood and repeal several of the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) provisions (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/1).Through budget reconciliation, certain legislation can advance in the Senate with a simple majority vote.

The part of the reconciliation measure that targets Planned Parenthood would end federal funding for the organization for one year. According to the Congressional Budget Office, that amounts to about $390 million in Medicaid funding. Meanwhile, the measure would add $235 million in funding for community health centers.

The House already has passed the measure. President Obama pledged to veto the bill if it passes through Congress (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/18).

Latest Developments

Pelosi during an interview with Reuters said conservative lawmakers had submitted a proposed spending measure to her on Thursday which did not include provisions targeting Planned Parenthood. According to Reuters, liberal lawmakers have rejected the proposal based on other provisions.

Pelosi said, "They had purposefully taken the Planned Parenthood language out ... My understanding is there's some unease among their members." According to Reuters, the omission could indicate that conservative lawmakers are wary about expressing their opposition to the organization after a shooting last week at a Colorado-based Planned Parenthood clinic.

Pelosi added, "I think they know [the Planned Parenthood provision] was a loser" (Reuters, 12/2).

Separately, a conservative aide said, "The fight over Planned Parenthood is focused on the Senate and the reconciliation process."

House Freedom Caucus Voices Support for Alternative Planned Parenthood Provisions

Meanwhile, the conservative House Freedom Caucus on Wednesday indicated that it would support an alternative provision in the final spending proposal that permits states to exclude Planned Parenthood from their Medicaid programs. Previously, the caucus said it would vote against any spending measure that did not end federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

The alternative measure was outlined by the Pro-Life Caucus in a letter to conservative leaders. It would block federal funding for Medicaid unless states were permitted to exclude abortion providers from their state Medicaid programs without being penalized. According to The Hill, several states that have tried to exclude Planned Parenthood from their Medicaid programs have been blocked from doing so by a federal law that allows Medicaid beneficiaries their choice of any qualified medical provider.

The Pro-Life Caucus also urged conservative leaders to consider two other antiabortion-rights provisions in the letter, including one that would end funding for the United Nations Population Fund and curb funding for international family planning efforts. The other provision would provide additional legal protections for organizations that do not want to cover abortion care and physicians who do not want to provide such services.

The letter, which was signed by over 100 lawmakers, does not state that signatories will vote against a spending bill if it does not include any of the proposed alternative provisions (Sullivan, The Hill, 12/2).

Senate Prepares To Vote on Reconciliation Measure Amendments

In related news, the Senate on Thursday is scheduled to start voting on amendments to the measure that will use the budget reconciliation process to defund Planned Parenthood and repeal parts of the ACA, CQ News reports.

According to CQ News, lawmakers already have proposed several amendments related to the Planned Parenthood language. The amendments have not yet received any votes.

One amendment -- filed by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) -- would strip the Planned Parenthood defunding language from the bill.

Separately, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) proposed an amendment that would remove the Planned Parenthood defunding language and instead create a fund to bolster security for abortion clinics. The fund would receive about $1 billion via a surtax on high-income families from fiscal year 2016 to 2025. The funding would be allocated to clinics and providers who offer abortion care to bolster safety and provide health care services. The amendment also would require that Congress receive a report each year that outlines best practices and tracks violence against clinics and providers who offer women's health care services.

Murray said, "A doctor in a woman's health clinic should not have to worry about wearing a bulletproof vest under her lab coat ... Women's health care should not be controversial, much less cause for violence, in the 21st century. Women and their families have had enough" (Attias, CQ News, 12/2).

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) proposed another amendment that would bar individuals who have been charged with misdemeanors under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act from being able to own a firearm. The Freedom of Access Act, passed in 1994, aims to protect clinics from violence and harassment. According to Politico Pro, the amendment comes in response to last week's shooting at the Colorado clinic (Haberkorn, Politico Pro, 12/3).