Open thread: Senate debate on defunding Planned Parenthood; Update: Manchin supports defunding

The bill to defund Planned Parenthood, S.1881, comes to the floor at 1 pm ET today. It faces a cloture vote in the near term and an almost certain Barack Obama vote in the long term, and it’s not certain that the bill’s supporters have enough votes for either threshold. Even if it gets past the cloture vote, an Obama veto would set up a budget fight down the road, one which sponsor Rand Paul isn’t eager to get into another shutdown fight, he told CNN’s Jake Tapper yesterday. But if it does happen, it’ll be Obama’s fault and not Congress’:

Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul refused to say Sunday whether he supports the efforts of some Senate Republicans to threaten a government shutdown over federal funding of Planned Parenthood.

“I support any legislation that will defund Planned Parenthood. But I don’t think you start out with your objective to shut down government,” Paul told CNN’s Jake Tapper in an interview aired Sunday on “State of the Union.” …

“I mean if President Obama wants to shut down government because he doesn’t get funds for Planned Parenthood, that would be President Obama’s determination to shut down government,” Paul told Tapper.

The battle over Planned Parenthood funding won’t end with a Congressional vote either way. Politico’s Rachana Pradhan points out that much of that funding comes through Medicaid, and that may be a harder spigot to turn off:

If any bill to cut funding to Planned Parenthood became law, stopping the flow of Title X money would be relatively easy. Congress controls that money and can decide who gets how much, or who gets none at all.

But severing Planned Parenthood from Medicaid could be a lot more complicated, and that’s the bigger chunk of change. Planned Parenthood says roughly 75 percent of its government funding is state and federal Medicaid dollars, though it wouldn’t give a breakdown.

When states have tried to expel Planned Parenthood clinics from their Medicaid programs, they’ve ended up in court. The same thing could happen to a federal law.

Attorneys interviewed said Medicaid law has long protected a patient’s right to flexibility in choosing a health care provider (as long as the doctor, clinic or other provider accepts Medicaid). Those safeguards are particularly strong for access to family planning services, said Cindy Mann, an attorney with Manatt, Phelps & Phillips who until recently ran Medicaid for the Obama administration.

Cutting off Title X funding would still at least have an impact. It’s one thing for people to choose to use their Medicaid coverage at Planned Parenthood, and another entirely to issue subsidies through Title X funding. The former is a patient choice, but the latter is an endorsement by Congress — one that should end forthwith, and should have ended years ago.

But will it? Katie Pavlich links to public commitments from Republican Senators such as Joni Ernst, Paul, James Lankford, and Mitch McConnell to force an end to Planned Parenthood subsidies, but Democrats have been rather silent on the issue — especially the so-called moderates. The AP believes it will go down to defeat on the cloture vote, but also notes that this will not be the end of the fight:

Republicans will likely lose Monday’s Senate showdown over halting federal aid to Planned Parenthood. Yet the political offensive by abortion foes has just started, prompted by a batch of unsettling videos that has focused attention on the group’s little-noticed practice of providing fetal tissue to researchers.

Conservatives have long targeted Planned Parenthood, which provides health services, family planning and abortions in clinics across the country. The furtively recorded videos, with hair-raising close-ups of aborted fetal organs and Planned Parenthood officials dispassionately describing how “I’m not going to crush that part,” have forced the group and its Democratic champions into a defensive crouch. …

Many Democrats have distanced themselves from the video’s remarks. Many are choosing their words like Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who says of Republicans, “They’re attacking women’s health.”

Underscoring the sensitivity, some moderates will likely cross party lines Monday. Sens. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, are among several saying little about how they will vote.

Politically speaking, the risk for a vote today falls mainly on the shoulders of Democrats. We have not seen the full range of undercover videos from Center for Medical Progress yet; there may be as many as nine left to publish. A vote now in support of Planned Parenthood won’t play well if further revelations show even worse depredations, and the moderates may be the most at risk. That could sway them to vote for cloture, and let Barack Obama be the “bad cop” with a veto. There aren’t enough Democrats at risk for a veto to get overridden in the Senate anyway, so those Democrats who may be at risk could vote with Republicans all day long without any concern that this measure would pass.

Keep an eye out for today’s cloture vote. If it fails, expect Republicans to raise the issue again. Here’s a question, in case that happens: will CMP adjust its release schedule to focus on the beginning of September, in order to keep the issue from burning out during the recess?

Update: West Virginia moderate Democrat Joe Manchin will vote in favor of defunding:

West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin says he will back a Republican bill cutting off federal aid for Planned Parenthood.

Manchin is a moderate and his decision Monday was not a complete surprise. Even so, Republicans were still expected to lose a Senate vote later Monday to halt federal assistance to the group.

Manchin might convince a couple of more Dems to switch — maybe Heidi Heitkamp, although she and Bob Casey both have spoken against it. It’s difficult to see where the other five votes for cloture will come from, let alone a dozen for a veto override.

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David Strom 5:21 PM on June 02, 2023