Senate Republicans required the assistance of Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday to break a tie on legislation allowing states to withhold federal funds from Planned Parenthood and other family planning providers.
The U.S. Congress voted 230-188 in February to overturn the HHS rule under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows the House to reverse agency regulations within 60 legislative days. The 50-50 vote resulted in Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie breaking ballot to advance the measure to the president's desk. Republicans Susan Collins of ME and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska broke with their party, voting against the measure.
The bill erases a regulation imposed by former President Barack Obama shortly before he left office that lets states deny family planning funds to organizations only if they are incapable of providing those services.
Republicans reportedly argued the measure upholds states' rights, and is not an attack on Planned Parenthood. Patty Murray, D-Wash., one of several Democratic senators who spoke against the measure. "They 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".
The last time a vice president had to break a tie on final passage of legislation was almost a dozen years ago, when Richard B. Cheney voted for the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. He told attendees then that the Trump administration would work with Congress to permanently bar taxpayer funding of abortion and abortion providers.
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The committee's work has been deeply, and perhaps irreparably, undermined by Nunes' apparent coordination with the White House. They made a point of putting themselves at arm's length from the partisanship and disputes surrounding the House investigation.
While Title X funding has been distributed to Planned Parenthood facilities in the past, the clinics aren't allowed to use the funds for any abortions.
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. Planned Parenthood and other abortion service providers can still receive Title X grants, but legislatures in about a dozen states have blocked them from receiving that money. But the GOP is moving forward with efforts to defund the provider, and President Donald Trump is expected to sign the Title X resolution into law.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said it was the Obama administration's move that hurt "local communities".
The Title X federal grant program, enacted by President Richard Nixon in 1970, subsidizes preventive health care and family planning services for 4 million low-income Americans, roughly half of whom are uninsured. In 2011, IN slashed funding for Planned Parenthood, shutting down many rural clinics.