By Joseph Hammond
Just days after failing to pass healthcare reform, Republicans rallied to push through a bill that allows the states to set their policies regarding funding for Planned Parenthood, a non-profit that provides reproductive care.
Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate to repeal the Obama-era legislation.
“The irony is that there while there were not enough votes to repeal Obamacare, there were enough votes to allow states to defund Planned Parenthood,” said Frank Cannon the President of the American Principals Project said. “This vote is good news for Republicans.”
The Obama-era regulation prevented states from excluding groups from receiving certain federal grants because they provide contraception and other family planning services, including abortions.
The action does not prevent such organizations from receiving federal grants; it allows states to decide who should be eligible.
Politicians in some states opposed the funding of Planned Parenthood by Medicare and Medicaid because the organization’s clinics perform abortions.
The real drama on the Senate floor on Thursday was the presence of Sen. Johnny Isakson. The Georgia Republican is recovering from his second back surgery this year and used a walker to reach the Senate floor after being flown in with his doctor’s permission for the vote. Isakson’s vote set-up the 50-50 deadlock broken by the vice-president. Until Thursday; Isakson had not appeared on the Senate floor since February 17.
Planned Parenthood did not return AMI’s request for comment. However, the organization’s Twitter account criticized the vote: “Senate GOP thinks so little of women, they didn’t bother to hold a debate before voting to restrict access to our health care,” It stated. .
“Just in case we didn’t already have enough men making decisions on women’s health,” wrote Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) in a twitter message criticizing Pence’s Thursday vote. Other Democrats also criticized Pence for voting on a procedural matter.
The 50-50 vote split was created by the defection of two Republican senators – Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine) – who joined with the Democrats in voting in opposition to the measure.
Both Collins and Murkowski also voted with Democrats against the appointment of Education Secretary Betsy Davos.
“On a lot of conservative legislation these two senators are not voting with their colleagues in the Senate that are unfortunate but, since the Republicans have the White House, their obstruction cannot be maintained,” said Cannon.
This vote was the second time Vice President Pence has had to cast a tie-breaking vote in the U.S. Senate; the first time occurred during the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education last month.
Until Pence, the last vice president to cast a tie-breaking vote was when Dick Cheney voted on a piece of tax legislation in 2008. In the ninetieth century, several vice presidents cast over ten such tie-breaking votes in the U.S Senate during their terms. John Adams, who was vice-president to George Washington, cast 29 such votes. A record matched by no subsequent vice president.
Meanwhile, critics of Obama’s policies regarding abortion see an opportunity to build on the surprise win.
“Today’s vote makes it clear Congress also has the votes to send to President Trump a reconciliation bill that defunds Planned Parenthood of more than $400 million in taxpayer funding and instead funds community health centers,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the Susan B. Anthony List a non-profit which seeks abolish abortion in the United States.