WASHINGTON, D.C., January 17, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – A symbolic vote on legislation banning taxpayer funding of abortion failed to muster enough votes to clear the current Senate rules Thursday afternoon, one day before pro-lifers gather in the nation’s capital for the March for Life.
On Wednesday, Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi took to the Senate floor to make the case for the latest version of his No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed cloture on a motion to proceed to a vote on the bill.
While most direct abortion funding is prohibited by the Hyde Amendment, it requires annual re-approval in the budget process and fails to account for subsidies to groups like Planned Parenthood indirectly supporting their abortion activities. Wicker’s bill would impose a permanent, comprehensive ban on abortion funding, block tax dollars from financing abortions through Obamacare insurance plans, and enhance disclosure requirements for plans on the exchange that cover abortion.
Social conservative groups hailed the move, with Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser claiming the “Senate is showing they’ll be a brick wall when it comes to trying to force taxpayers to pay for abortion on demand,” but none expected the legislation to actually pass. Democrats control the House of Representatives, and Senate Republicans currently lack the 60 votes needed to proceed to a final, simple-majority vote.
The final vote was 48-47, with pro-abortion Republicans Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski joining Democrats. The GOP currently has enough pro-life senators that a simple majority could have been compiled without them, but GOP Sens. Lamar Alexander, Richard Burr, Mike Crapo, Lindsey Graham, and Rand Paul were either absent or did not vote.
The #Senate did not invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to S.109, regarding abortion; 48-47. GOP against: Collins and Murkowski. Democrats voting in favor: Casey and Manchin. Not voting: Alexander, Burr, Crapo, Graham and Paul.
— Senate Press Gallery (@SenatePress) January 17, 2019
Several Democrat lawmakers attacked both the policy proposal and the act of holding a vote on it:
Instead of working with us to end the #TrumpShutdown for people and families nationwide, @senatemajldr McConnell has scheduled a vote today on a bill that would effectively end abortion coverage and undermine women's access to health care.
This appalling and unacceptable.
— Senator Patty Murray (@PattyMurray) January 17, 2019
This vote to block millions of American women from their constitutional right to access an abortion is yet another excuse for Republicans to put themselves exactly where they don’t belong—between a woman & her right to control her own reproductive decisions.
— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) January 17, 2019
.@senatemajldr has scheduled a vote today. No, it’s not to reopen the government and begin paying 800,000 federal workers who’ve gone without pay for 27 days. It’s to restrict reproductive health care coverage. Unbelievable.
Stop attacking women. Open the government.
— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) January 17, 2019
Though the bill failed to pass, Wicker expressed pleasure that the vote helped put all of his colleagues' positions on the record:
At the end of today’s vote, every single American will know where their Senator stands on the issue of taxpayer funding for abortion. Tax dollars should never be used to fund a procedure so many find reprehensible. #ProLife #WhyWeMarch
— Senator Roger Wicker (@SenatorWicker) January 17, 2019
It would have been possible, albeit time-consuming, to circumvent the 60-vote threshold by forcing the minority party to engage in a literal filibuster and enforce the “two-speech rule” limiting the number of times individual Democrats can speak, but for years McConnell has been unwilling to revise the filibuster rules in any way.
With control of Congress divided for the next two years, pro-lifers have largely resigned themselves to a national agenda of confirming originalist judges in the Senate and promoting pro-life executive actions for the time being, while many hope the proliferation of heartbeat laws in the states will eventually force the Supreme Court to revisit and overturn Roe v. Wade.