Senate to vote tonight to defund Planned Parenthood: Pro-lifers put 7 ‘moderates’ under pressure
WASHINGTON, D.C., Aug. 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- Pro-life activists are urging moderate Democrats and Republicans in the Senate to vote to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood in the vote scheduled for Monday night.
But even their support may not be enough to ensure that the measure passes, with nearly all Democrats opposed to S. 1881 and a veto promised by President Obama. A defunding bill would require 60 votes in the Senate for passage, and 66 to override a veto.
Pressure from the pro-life movement to defund Planned Parenthood has intensified in light of the release of four videos showing senior Planned Parenthood officials describing how the organization harvests fetal parts, and illegally modifies abortions to guarantee the receipt of fetal parts.
Three committees are investigating Planned Parenthood, but pro-life Members of Congress and their allies are pushing for Congress to defund Planned Parenthood before the investigations are complete.
Despite the videos and intense pressure from pro-life groups, several of the Senate's 54 Republicans are expected to not support S. 1881, which has the backing of GOP leadership and some of the pro-life community's top senators.
Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has remained silent -- her office told LifeSiteNews that a statement would be released at approximately the same time as tonight's vote -- and Susan Collins of Maine, and Mark Kirk of Illinois have expressed outright opposition to defunding Planned Parenthood.
Murkowski supported federal funding for Planned Parenthood in 2011, the last time the issue was front-and-center in Congress.
On the Democratic side, Senators Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, and North Dakota's Heidi Heitkamp are targets for pro-life pressure.
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Also on the original target list was Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who has since confirmed that he will support the defunding measure.
A pro-life leader told LifeSiteNews that "the seven targets are 'swing' votes who we think are most gettable. Of course, all 100 Senators need pressure. But the seven laid out are either on the fence or close to it."
Five of the seven Senators are unlikely to vote to defund, said the activist. "We are not going to get 60 votes on this. Right now, I think our floor is 50 and our ceiling is 54 [votes]. The two who are the real wild cards are Donnelly and Murkowski."
"But keep in mind that last time we had a vote on this in the Senate in 2011, we only got 42 votes. So if we can get to 51, it’s a victory in that the majority of the U.S. Senate voted to defund PP."
Some pro-lifers are frustrated that the GOP-controlled Senate did not include the defunding legislation in a "must-pass" bill, such as the transportation bill that passed the Senate. The theory is that this would put pressure on Democrats to pass the bigger bill in order to keep parts of the government funded.
This was a strategy implemented in 2011, when the new GOP majority in the House wanted to defund Planned Parenthood in a Continuing Resolution to keep the government running. That effort failed when President Obama called the GOP's bluff, joining Senate Democrats in being willing to shut down the government in order to keep Planned Parenthood's funding intact.
The pro-life activist told LifeSiteNews that a similar strategy is under discussion for the new effort to defund Planned Parenthood. "There is already talk about defunding [Planned Parenthood] being a major issue in the [Continuing Resolution]. So I don’t see stand-alone versus must-pass an either/or. We can do both."
Donnelly's office said that it was unlikely that the senator, who supports a congressional investigation of Planned Parenthood, would be releasing further statements today on where he will vote tonight.
Senator Joe Manchin put out a statement today affirming that he would support the measure.
“Like many West Virginians, I am very troubled by the callous behavior of Planned Parenthood staff in recently released videos, which casually discuss the sale, possibly for profit, of fetal tissue after an abortion,” he said in a statement.
“Until these allegations have been answered and resolved, I do not believe that taxpayer money should be used to fund this organization; instead those funds should be sent to other health care providers, including community health centers, which provide important women’s healthcare services. While my vote is one that will prevent taxpayers dollars from going to Planned Parenthood, I will remain committed to ensuring that all women in West Virginia and America receive the health care services they need.”
Last week, Manchin and Collins said they were working on legislation that could defund only Planned Parenthood clinics that engage in fetal harvesting. Collins told National Journal she was worried about health access for women.
The bill currently before the full Senate, which was introduced by Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa, would shift Planned Parenthood funding to other providers.