Amid the furor over the undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue prices, the battle is intensifying in the Senate over the Republican push to defund the organization. Democrats charge that the GOP campaign would defund women’s health services more broadly. Republicans claim the money would be re-distributed to other groups that provide such services.
But now the Democratic position appears to have picked up some support from two Republican Senators. Buried in the Hill’s account of the battle we find this, from GOP Senators Mark Kirk and Susan Collins, both of whom are not (yet) on board with the defunding push:
Supporters of Planned Parenthood stress that the group is banned under the Hyde Amendment from using federal funding for abortions, except in limited cases, and note the organization’s larger role in the healthcare system.
Kirk echoed that argument in a statement to The Hill.
“I do not plan to cut access to basic health care and contraception for women, the majority of whom have no other resources,” said Kirk, who is supportive of abortion rights.
Collins, who is also an abortion rights supporter, pushed back on the idea that the Planned Parenthood money would be redistributed.
“The problem is, in my state and many others, Planned Parenthood is the primary provider of women’s health services in certain parts of my state,” she said. “[I] don’t know how you would ensure that all of the patients of Planned Parenthood could be absorbed by alternative care providers.”
That sounds a lot like the case that Planned Parenthood is making, i.e., that defunding the organization would put at risk the health care that a lot of women across the country rely on. Kirk is one of the most vulnerable GOP Senators of the cycle, so it’s plausible his balking could signal skittishness about where the politics of this battle could lead.
Indeed, listen to one GOP strategist:
“It’s a little bit risky on both sides,” said Katie Packer Gage, a Republican strategist specializing in messaging to female voters. “We don’t know where this thread that’s being pulled on Planned Parenthood is going to lead us.”
So keep an eye on how other Senators up for reelection next year in Obama states handle this. As for this battle carrying risks for Democrats, that very well may prove to be the case, and Republicans are working hard to pressure moderate Dem Senators to join the GOP’s defunding push. Thus far Dems appear to be holding firm, but that bears watching, too.
* MEDICARE TURNS 50 TODAY: Jonathan Cohn has a terrific piece reminding us that conservatives opposed Medicare as an apocalyptic threat to freedom 50 years ago, and continue to do so today, though they are more careful about it. But as Cohn notes, on a fundamental level, liberals and conservatives are still arguing over whether to preserve Medicare’s core coverage guarantee — which can, indeed, be preserved, with the right reforms.
The problem for conservatives, of course, is that this experiment in socialism, despite the dire warnings otherwise, has proven successful and popular.
* BUSINESS GROUPS PLAN BIG EXPORT-IMPORT PUSH: Roll Call reports that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is planning a big political push on members of Congress during the August recess, in hopes of getting them to re-authorize the Export-Import Bank, whose fate hangs in the balance. This could prove yet another area where business groups conclude that the GOP is not acting in their interests — and another area that does not meaningfully change their alliance.
* DONALD TRUMP, TRUTH TELLER: Bloomberg reports on an eye-opening focus group of Republicans and independents, who talked about why Donald Trump appeals to them. One said: “He says it like it is. He speaks the truth.” Another: “He’s willing to tell you his opinion.”
But the best response of all by far came from a woman who suggested that a Trump presidency would be: “Classy.”
* THE-DONALD-MENTUM SURGES ACROSS THE COUNTRY: A new Quinnipiac poll finds Donald Trump holding a substantial lead among Republicans nationwide: he has 20 percent, while Scott Walker is second with 13 percent, and Jeb Bush is at 10 percent. All other Republicans are in single digits.
None of this means much, except with regard to how it could impact the coming GOP debate. One noteworthy detail: the poll shows Ohio governor John Kasich has edged into the top 10, so he might make the stage.
* HILLARY’S IMAGE IN BAD SHAPE: The Quinnipiac poll also finds:
Clinton is not honest and trustworthy, voters say 57-37 percent, and doesn’t care about their needs and problems, voters say 52-45 percent.
And 51 percent view Clinton unfavorably.
* QUOTE OF THE DAY, GOP-IS-TRUMP’S-PARTY EDITION: Chuck Schumer makes an interesting point here about how the difficulty the Senate GOP leadership is having with Ted Cruz can be traced to his presidential aspirations and to Trump:
“Ted Cruz feels the need to be as disruptive as Donald Trump, so Trump becomes Mitch McConnell’s problem.”
And, of course, this is only going to get worse, before it gets better.
* BUT TRUMP IS NOT THE REAL THREAT TO GOP: E.J. Dionne has a nice column taking stock of the chaos that looms in Congress, and explaining why the real threat to the GOP in 2016 is not Donald Trump:
Republicans have to treat doing business with President Obama and the Democrats as something bordering on philosophical treason…Politicians of nearly every kind used to agree that building roads, bridges, mass-transit projects and airports was good for everybody. Now, even pouring concrete and laying track can be disrupted by weird ideological struggles….The bigger danger comes from a Republican Congress that is having a lot of trouble getting that governing thing down.
And just wait until the debt ceiling crisis hits, just as the GOP primaries are heating up…