Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown on Tuesday came out against the federal funding cuts to Planned Parenthood that were included in a funding resolution that Brown himself backed two weeks ago.
The bill passed by House Republicans failed in the Senate on a 44 to 56 vote. It would have cut $61 billion from federal agencies through the end of the fiscal year in September.
At the time of the Senate vote earlier this month, Brown acknowledged that he opposed some of the cuts. “I would have had different priorities,” he said at the time, according to the Boston Globe, adding that he hoped Congress would move toward “a realistic and pragmatic compromise package that will contain smarter and more judicious spending reductions.”
On Tuesday, he said in a statement, “I support family planning and health services for women. Given our severe budget problems, I don’t believe any area of the budget is completely immune from cuts. However, the proposal to eliminate all funding for family planning goes too far. As we continue with our budget negotiations, I hope we can find a compromise that is reasonable and appropriate.”
The news of Brown’s statement was first reported by the Boston Globe.
Brown’s position, along with that of two other Republican senators, could affect ongoing negotiations between the House and Senate to break an impasse over funding the federal government for the rest of the year.
Earlier this month, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) wrote a letter to the chairman and vice-chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee expressing her disagreement with the proposed House Republican cuts to Planned Parenthood. Another moderate Republican, Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), has defended Title X family planning funding, although she did not specifically name Planned Parenthood.
On the one hand, the move by Brown -- coupled with the statements by Murkowski and Collins – could notch up the pressure on House Republicans to compromise on a way forward on funding the government that does not include cuts to Planned Parenthood. Senate Democrats have said they will strongly oppose the inclusion of any such policy riders in an eventual compromise funding bill.
On the other hand, all three Republican moderates voted in favor of the House-passed bill earlier this month, even though it contained the cuts to Planned Parenthood and Title X.
That would suggest that the trio’s leverage is limited: if an eventual funding compromise were to contain Planned Parenthood cuts (which appears unlikely at present), it would be difficult for Brown, Murkowski and Collins to vote against it, since they backed those cuts as recently as two weeks ago.
In her letter following the Senate vote earlier this month, Murkowski explained that she wanted to “send a clear signal” on deficit reduction but felt that certain programs, including Planned Parenthood, “were unfairly targeted and zeroed out where reductions may have been more appropriate.”
Planned Parenthood receives federal funding, but those federal dollars must by law go toward family planning, not abortion services.
Indiana Republican Rep. Mike Pence, who has led the charge to defund Planned Parenthood, last month offered an amendment to the House Republican funding bill that would prevent any federal funds from going to the organization; the amendment passed the House on a 240-to-185 vote. In addition, the underlying House bill would eliminate all Title X family planning funding, which amounts to $318 million for the current fiscal year.