The Hill: GOP: Defund Planned Parenthood now
The Hill - Sarah Ferris and Peter Sullivan
House Republicans outraged by a series of undercover Planned Parenthood videos about fetal parts are pressuring their leadership to immediately call a vote on defunding the organization.
Republican members have been lining up behind the push to cut off federal funds to the organization. Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and 124 co-sponsors have backed a bill to defund Planned Parenthood for one year while an investigation takes place.
But House leadership says any legislative action will wait for the congressional investigations. "Let's get the facts first," Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said at a press conference Thursday.
Many of Boehner’s members, though, are in no mood for waiting.
“There is no excuse when you have evidence like this, it’s time to move forward. It’s not time to back off,” said Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas), who is often a vocal critic of leadership. “I would be very disappointed if we gave in to the abortion industry in this.”
“The idea that we would wait for an investigation,” he added, shaking his head. “Are we going to wait a Benghazi length of time? Are we going to wait a year and a half? Now’s the time to actually bring the defunding bill up.”
Huelskamp is among several Republicans — including Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), who has a companion bill to Black's — who will headline a D.C. rally against Planned Parenthood next Tuesday. Dr. Ben Carson, a Republican presidential candidate, will also appear at the protest organized by Students for Life.
Republicans say they see an opening to defund the group in the wake of two viral videos that show Planned Parenthood officials candidly discussing the price for fetal tissue donations. The group behind the videos says Planned Parenthood is illegally profiting from the donations.
Planned Parenthood strongly denies it has broken the law, and points to its officials’ statements in the videos that they are looking for legal compensation for expenses, not profit.
“I would like to see us call a moratorium now, and frankly, I ultimately wanted Planned Parenthood defunded period,” Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said. “Certainly the videos are so disturbing and gruesome that calling a halt to that funding now would be very prudent and reasonable.”
Brady said he believes defunding Planned Parenthood and launching investigations into the group can “be done in parallel.”
Asked about Black’s bill, Kevin Smith, a Boehner spokesman, said, “The Speaker has long supported efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, and has voted to do so in the past.”
The fight to defund Planned Parenthood, which receives around $500 million in government dollars, is expected to reach the Senate as part of the debate over a highway bill. Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), both presidential candidates, have vowed to force votes on defunding the group by adding amendments to the legislation.
Even if Paul and Cruz are rebuffed in the Senate, the funding issue could loom large in September’s government funding negotiations.
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a deputy whip, said Thursday that he is “open to using all means to make sure” that Planned Parenthood doesn’t receive federal funding. “I have absolutely no doubt it will come up in those discussions [in the fall],” he said.
“I’ve never ever been in favor of shutting down the government, I just don’t think that’s ever an appropriate response,” Cole added. “But I think if we remove this, I very seriously doubt the president of the United States will veto a $150-odd billion [health] appropriations bill, or an omnibus, over this single issue. But we’ll see.”
But some warned that picking a funding fight with Democrats over Planned Parenthood could be bad for Republicans.
Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) said Democrats would likely try to paint the GOP’s effort as another display of dysfunction — even if President Obama and Democrats are the ones to oppose the budget deal.
“[Obama] will say to Dems, ‘Don’t vote for cloture in the Senate,’ then the people simply won’t know about that, and they’ll say, ‘Those damn Republicans are trying to shut the government down again,’ when all we’re trying to do is stop the taxpayer funding of abortions,” Franks said.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday was quick to bring up Republicans’ previous effort to defund Planned Parenthood in 2011.
“One of their first actions was a threat to shut down government rather than to fund Planned Parenthood,” she said, repeating herself for emphasis: "They would shut down government rather than fund Planned Parenthood.”
Still, Franks said Republican leaders should allow votes in the House and Senate on defunding bills.
“I am open to the most reasonable approach, but I think to do nothing or to turn our head away is to do so at our moral peril,” he said.
Some of the House’s anti-abortion members remain skeptical of Boehner’s commitment, Huelskamp said.
He pointed to an intraparty dispute in January that led GOP leadership to cancel a vote on a late-term abortion ban. The bill, which ultimately passed the House in May, had been timed to coincide with the annual March for Life, which brought thousands of activists to the National Mall.
“On the biggest pro-life day of the year, they pulled a pro-life bill,” he said.
Online: The Hill