The Senate on Thursday shot down a temporary spending bill which would defund Planned Parenthood, destroying attempts by Republican leaders to avoid a government shutdown on Oct. 1. Senators voted 47-52 on ending debate on the short-term continuing resolution, well short of the 60 votes needed. The legislation would have funded the government through Dec. 11. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has set the first procedural vote on that measure for Monday, two days before the federal fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.
The vote divided Republicans, with eight of them breaking ranks. Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Susan Collins (Maine), Tom Cotton (Ark.), Dean Heller (Nev.) Mark Kirk (Ill.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Ben Sasse (Neb.) all voted against moving forward. McConnell ahead of the vote suggested the blame for the funding showdown rested squarely with Democrats.
I regret the Democratic leadership determined a crisis would be necessary to advance a policy aim of growing the government and that our colleagues decided accordingly to block every single funding bill,” he said. “We’ve been forced to pursue a continuing resolution as a result.”
House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, meanwhile, laid out similar options in a closed-door meeting with Republican conservatives, who oppose any spending bill allowing federal funds to go to Planned Parenthood amid allegations that it improperly sold tissue harvested from aborted fetuses. Lawmakers leaving the meeting declined to say whether Boehner would defy their demands and hold a vote on a “clean” funding bill. House Republican leadership aides said that the Ohio congressman is considering alternatives, including a separate Planned Parenthood defunding bill using special procedures to ease passage through both chambers of Congress. President Barack Obama would likely veto it.
While no final decisions were made, Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, a member of the House Republican leadership, told reporters: “We’re going to keep attacking this (abortion) on many fronts.” Scalise offered several possibilities for a moratorium on Planned Parenthood funds and banning late-term abortions. House leaders will discuss the plans Friday morning. The White House warned that Obama would veto legislation to continue funding the government if it strips away federal money for Planned Parenthood, setting up the showdown with anti-abortion advocates.
On Thursday, the Republican-led Wisconsin Assembly approved a bill banning the state from using federal family planning money from going to Planned Parenthood and other organizations that perform abortions. The bill needs state Senate approval and Governor Scott Walker’s signature before becoming law. Senator Ted Cruz, could drag out the process, on the campaign trail he has slammed Republican leadership during the funding fight, telling reporters that they “will support 100 percent of the priorities of Democrats.”