Senate Democrats say they’re confident a Republican-led charge to cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood will fail because not enough senators support eliminating aid to the women’s health group.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, has said the Senate will vote next week on legislation that would prevent taxpayer dollars from going to Planned Parenthood. The effort began after videos surfaced purporting to show organization officials discussing the distribution of fetal tissue from abortions for research.
The Senate needs 60 votes to advance legislation for a vote, meaning Republicans would need all of their 54 members to support the defunding bill as well as at least six Democrats. They won’t get there, aides to Senate Democrats said Wednesday.
“It will fail,” Matt House, an aide to Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the chamber’s No. 3 Democrat, said in an e-mail. “It’s an attempt by McConnell to placate the right that does absolutely nothing but waste time.”
Twenty-four Republican senators led by Iowa’s Joni Ernst introduced the defunding legislation, S. 1881, Tuesday in response to videos from the Center for Medical Progress, an Irvine, California-based group that describes itself as “concerned about contemporary bioethical issues that impact human dignity.”
The group said its videos show Planned Parenthood is “engaged in an enterprise-wide operation that traffics and sells baby body parts.”
“This legislation ensures that funding for women’s health is protected and that taxpayer dollars will not go to Planned Parenthood,” Ernst said in a statement.
Planned Parenthood said the videos are “heavily edited” by “activists who have been widely discredited,” in a statement on its website by Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens. The organization maintains it doesn’t sell fetal tissue, though it does allow women in a few locations to donate the tissue for research.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama “couldn’t disagree more” with efforts to cut off federal funds to Planned Parenthood. The president supports women “getting the kind of services and health care they need,” he said.
McConnell urged broad support for the bill on the Senate floor Wednesday. The bill would “ensure taxpayer dollars for women’s health are spent on women’s health, not a scandal-plagued political lobbying giant,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, called the legislation “an attack on women’s health” during a news conference Tuesday.
“We’re dealing with the health of American women, and they’re dealing with some right-wing crazy deal,” Reid said. Asked to respond to Republican claims they were designing the bill to win 60 votes, Reid said: “Good luck.”
Senator Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat who opposes abortion, said he won’t back the legislation. He said in an e-mailed statement he supports sending federal money to Planned Parenthood because its birth-control services “reduce unintended pregnancies and, as a result, reduce the number of abortions.”
“Planned Parenthood facilities provide vital services, like cervical and breast cancer screenings and primary health care to millions of low-income women and it’s important that those services continue,” Casey said.
Two House committees are doing their own investigations into the video, and House Speaker John Boehner has said he wants the facts first before voting on whether to defund Planned Parenthood.
Boehner called the videos “awful” during a news conference last week and said, “The more we learn, the more it will educate our decisions in the future.”