Senate kills rule meant to protect family planning funds

Republicans probably will need another tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence to advance their campaign promise to take tax money away from Planned Parenthood.

Republican Sens. Susan Collins of ME and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted against ending debate on the bill, requiring the need for Pence's vote to break the tie. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), who has been absent for several weeks recovering from two back surgeries. He told reporters that he had always planned to ease back into his routine this week by flying up from Atlanta, where he is undergoing a 12-week rehabilitation, to cast some votes.

The Congressional Review Act lets lawmakers undo regulations enacted in the last months of the Obama administration with a majority vote. It bars state and local governments from denying federal family planning funds to organizations unless they are unable to provide those services.

"Allowing states to defund Planned Parenthood because politicians want to punish a health care provider only hurts women", said Sen.

Senate Republicans "didn't listen to women across the country who made it clear that restricting women's access to the full range of reproductive care is unacceptable", said Washington Democrat Patty Murray.

Both Isakson and Pence are went back on the floor later Thursday afternoon when the CRA gets a vote on final passage and their votes will be needed again. "There's a reason they could barely get enough votes to get this bill through a procedural step: People are sick and exhausted of politicians making it even harder for them to access health care, and they will not stand for it".

"There is already a bar against using federal funds for abortion, and that bar stays in effect".

The Department of Health and Human Services ruleprohibits states from cutting Title X family planning grants to community health centers that serve mainly low-income Americans exclusively because they offer abortion services.

Under Senate rules, the vice president can cast tie breaking votes.

In addition to providing abortions, Planned Parenthood is also a safety-net health center for many low-income women and families to receive services like screenings for cancer or sexually-transmitted infections. Besides erasing much of former President Barack Obama's 2010 health care law, the abandoned House bill would have blocked federal funds for Planned Parenthood for a year. "I'm on the team and I'll be doing what Mitch needs me to do", he said, referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who must decide if he will use the nuclear option.

The rule had been finalized in December by the Department of Health and Human Services. Pence broke his first tie on the nomination of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Planned Parenthood is America's largest abortion provider.

Planned Parenthood dodged a bullet last week when a House bill repealing parts of the Affordable Care Act and blocking the provider's Medicaid funding was pulled amid a rebellion of conservative and moderate Republicans, but it remains a key target for conservatives. Joe Biden never had to break a tie during his eight years as vice president.