Senate Democrats rejected a short-term spending bill because it would defund Planned Parenthood for one year. The bill failed to advance on Thursday afternoon, Sept. 24, 2015 with a vote of 52-47 with almost all Democrats opposing the bill. The spending bill would have funded the government until Dec. 11 averting a government shutdown that would occur on Oct. 1 if a short-term spending bill, continuing resolution is not passed before then. After the vote failed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) filed a clean short-term spending bill hoping it will pass in time to prevent a government shutdown. The bill is expected to pass both the Senate and House with Democratic support.
Eight Republicans joined all but one Democrat in voting against the bill. The Republicans who broke from party ranks included moderates; 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.). Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) was the sole Democrat to join with the Republicans voting for the bill. For the bill to advance the procedural hurdle, 60 votes were necessary.
The bill defunded Planned Parenthood; the women’s health organization is the major contention issue that might force a government shutdown at the end of the 2015 fiscal year on Sept. 30.
Anti-abortion groups made undercover videos at Planned Parenthood the videos surfaced this summer showing the reproductive health organization taking the fetal tissue and organs from abortions performed at the clinics and selling them for a profit. The organization claims the videos were “heavily edited” and that the women voluntarily donated the fetal tissue to be used for “medical research.”
The Senate bill would have taken the $235 million used to fund Planned Parenthood and the bill would instead given the funding to women’s health clinics that do not perform abortions. Many Republicans especially in the House of Representatives refuse to pass a spending bill even a short-term continuing resolution if the organization is funded, while Congressional Democrats and the White House are insistent that it be included in the budget.
Republicans want a year “moratorium” in order to investigate the organization and conduct Congressional hearings on the matter. Planned Parenthood is the “largest abortion provider” in the country, but is “barred by law from using federal funds for abortion services.” The organization is supposed to use the government funding to provide “medical checkups, cancer screenings and birth control services.” The Congressional Budget office estimates that it would cost the government $130 million more for a decade to defund the organization it would increase Medicaid costs.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) not wanting to have a government shutdown on his watch immediately filed a clean spending bill. Speaking after the vote McConnell blamed the Democrats for forcing a last minute clean bill. McConnell expressed, “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. We’ve been forced to pursue a continuing resolution as a result.”
McConnell wants to avoid a weekend session, and plans to have the procedural vote scheduled for Monday, Sept. 28 at 5:30 pm. The Senate leader pointed out the importance of averting the shutdown, “Today, however, we must grapple with the challenges of the present. The reality is that the government will shut down next week if Congress doesn’t act.” McConnell said, the Democrats are “making a losing bet they will come to regret over the long term.” The new clean bill is expected to pass.
The House voted 241-187 to defund Planned Parenthood on Friday, Sept. 18, 2015. Almost all Republicans, except four voted for the one-year federal funding freeze with two Democrats joining in. Republicans want the year to investigate the organization’s conduct. After the Senate vote on Thursday, Speaker of the House John Boehner met with the Conservative caucus of the Republican majority.
House Republican leadership have decided to support McConnell’s clean bill, but will also fast-track a reconciliation bill to defund Planned Parenthood that will go to President Barack Obama’s desk at the same time as the spending bill. Boehner and House leadership plan to meet Friday to further plan the bill. A reconciliation bill would ensure defunding passed even through the Senate.
The compromise might not be enough for Conservative Tea Party House members who would also like to oust the speaker. Among these members, 31 of them led by Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) have sent Boehner a letter about opposing any spending bill that does not defund Planned Parenthood. Mulvaney believes 50 Republicans will vote against the clean bill.
Still with Democratic support the bill can pass. Democrat Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee says there is enough Democratic support. While Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) spoke with House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) about enough Democratic support and he told the press, “I think we’re going to be okay. I think conference is going to go very well.” Congress has until Sept. 30 to pass a spending bill or the government will shut down.