So much for the promise of single-party governance. Despite controlling the federal government for the past two years, Republicans never did get around to fulfilling their promise to end government subsidies for Planned Parenthood. Politico reports that the GOP have thrown in the towel after one last effort to make it a lame-duck priority:
Congressional Republicans are giving up on years of promises to cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood as Democrats prepare to take control of the House, a major setback for the conservative movement after controlling both chambers of Congress and the White House for the past two years.
The futility of the congressional efforts was clear as the lame-duck session of Congress convened this week and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) briefly tried — and failed — to rally support for one last bid to push through Planned Parenthood cuts, Obamacare repeal and other conservative priorities. But most Republicans, already rattled by the possibility of a shutdown next week triggered by President Donald Trump’s border wall demands, dismissed his bid.
That’s infuriated anti-abortion groups, who plan to take their fight to state legislatures and the courts.
“They had two years to defund Planned Parenthood, and they failed,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of the anti-abortion group Students for Life of America. “It’s a huge frustration. We worked so hard to elect supposedly these pro-life Republican officials, and we expected results.”
As disappointing as this might be, it comes down to basic math, and Democrats had it on their side. The House has passed defunding language on a number of occasions, but the filibuster rules in the Senate require 60 votes for any appropriation bill. Not only couldn’t Republicans find nine Democrats to vote to strip Planned Parenthood of eligibility for Title X programs funds, they couldn’t get two of their own caucus to go along — Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. That’s not going to change in the lame-duck session, so Republicans in the House probably want to focus on the possible for their final few weeks in the majority.
It’s not to say that the GOP didn’t try. They included Planned Parenthood defunding language in their ObamaCare-repeal bill, which went through under reconciliation and only required a bare majority in the Senate. That effort dragged out for months, though, as various factions within the GOP fought over what a repeal should look like. A final late effort a year ago ended up a single vote short when the late John McCain dramatically cast his no vote on the Senate floor. It’s not that pro-life Republicans had a lack of commitment to the cause, but rather that there simply weren’t enough of them to make it work, not even in a reconciliation package.
That has some pro-life groups demanding a shutdown strategy from the White House over Planned Parenthood funding, but that seems unlikely as well. Donald Trump wants the fight to come down to the border wall, not Planned Parenthood, a topic on which Democrats might have to bend to get what they want out of the immigration debate. They have constituencies who have been promised a renewed DACA and broader asylum parameters, policies where Democrats have to trade with Republicans to get what they need. They don’t have to trade anything to maintain the status quo for Planned Parenthood, especially now with the majority in the House.
It’s a disgrace, of course, that the world’s leading abortion mill will still get hundreds of millions of dollars in Title X funds while killing over 300,000 babies every year. They can run their own business without government funds, and those Title X funds could help create clinics for women’s health that don’t involve aborting babies. But for now, anyway, we didn’t send enough pro-life politicians to Washington to make it stop. Perhaps we can do better at the state level, and even more so, at the grassroots level to change hearts and get better results in future elections.