House Republicans are looking for ways to defund Planned Parenthood in the Senate after falling short of a major anti-abortion goal last year.
While the House passed measures to defund the women’s health and abortion provider, they have languished in the Senate. That has caused frustration from lawmakers looking to amp up pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Several House lawmakers said they want McConnell to take up House appropriations bills, which require 60 votes in the Senate. The House passed 12 appropriations bills in September to fund the government, some of which included defunding Planned Parenthood.
“If it fails, then at least we will have a recorded vote,” said Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio.
Davidson spoke to the Washington Examiner while attending the 45th Annual March for Life Friday in Washington, where defunding Planned Parenthood was a major talking point.
Activists cheered the accomplishments over the first year of the Trump administration, which included the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and an executive order on religious liberty. The Trump administration also has made several moves to tackle Planned Parenthood; the recent one was announced Friday.
The administration rescinded a 2016 Obama-era guidance that told states seeking to stop Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood that it might violate federal law. The administration pulled that guidance Friday, claiming it hinders state oversight of their own Medicaid programs.
But defunding Planned Parenthood nationally is a difficult task as it will require buy-in from Senate Democrats to reach 60 votes and break a legislative filibuster. That has been the issue that has plagued other House anti-abortion bills that were passed this session.
Several lawmakers said a good strategy is to go back toward pushing the annual appropriations bills in the Senate.
“I have seen a change in the last eight months of getting more and more towards a direction of implementing those types of regular order and regular appropriations process, which allows us to put in the right priorities,” said Rep. Ron Estes, R-Kan.
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not brought up any of the bills for a vote.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, recently suggested letting the 12 appropriations bills be voted on individually instead of as part of a package. Davidson was in favor of that strategy.
“If you can’t do the whole thing, then you should do it in components,” he said.
Federal funding for the government is in peril, because the Senate does not have 60 votes to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government until Feb. 16. The House passed the legislation Thursday night, but Senate Democrats are resisting because the bill does not include protections for “Dreamers,” illegal immigrants who came to the country as children.
A handful of Senate Republicans are expected to oppose the CR, albeit for different concerns that include employing another stopgap measure to fund the government.
At some point, the government would need to reach an agreement for a long-term “omnibus” spending deal. Estes couldn’t say if such a deal would be able to include Planned Parenthood defunding.
“It depends on what the Senate agrees to in a CR today,” he said. “We need to have funding for the rest of the year.”
Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., called for Congress to pursue Planned Parenthood defunding through an up or down vote in the Senate.
“It ought to be a straight up and down vote with a majority vote in the Senate without the legislative filibuster,” he said, referring to the requirement of getting 60 votes to break a filibuster on legislation.
The GOP has a 51-49 majority in the Senate, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking any 50-50 tie. But it remains unclear if the Senate has 50 votes to defund Planned Parenthood.
Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, both voted against a “skinny” Obamacare repeal bill in late July that defunded Planned Parenthood for one year and also repealed some of the the law's mandates.