A group of Republican senators called on the Justice Department to investigate Planned Parenthood affiliates that got coronavirus relief loans even though the lawmakers say they weren’t eligible. The organization said its affiliates are independent and qualified for funding.

The 27 senators, including Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, asked Attorney General William Barr in a letter Thursday to open a probe, citing a Fox News report that at least 37 Planned Parenthood affiliates in the U.S. applied for and received about $80 million in loans under the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses.

The Planned Parenthood entities certified on loan applications that they were eligible when they knew they weren’t, the senators said. They cited language in the bill enacted in March creating the program and an implementing rule, as well as a statement at the time from Planned Parenthood Action Fund complaining that the bill gave the Trump administration broad discretion to exclude Planned Parenthood affiliates.

“The funds in the program are not unlimited, and were depleted once already because of high demand,” the senators wrote. “Planned Parenthood fraudulently taking tens of millions of dollars that were intended to help keep those small businesses and nonprofit organizations afloat cannot stand and must be addressed.”

Planned Parenthood Federation of America said its 49 member organizations are independent with separate boards of directors, so they are eligible to apply for PPP loans to deal with the economic impact of the pandemic just like other local nonprofits and health-care providers.

“This is a clear political attack on Planned Parenthood health centers and access to reproductive health care,” Jacqueline Ayers, vice president of government relations and public policy, said in a statement. “It has nothing to do with Planned Parenthood health care organizations’ eligibility for COVID-19 relief efforts.”

The group, which says its affiliates operate more than 600 health centers nationwide, is a frequent target for Republicans because it provides abortion services.

The Justice Department has received and is reviewing the letter, spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said. The Small Business Administration didn’t respond to a request for information about Planned Parenthood’s eligibility.

The PPP offers forgivable loans to small businesses of 500 employees and fewer or firms that meet the SBA’s size standards for industries. The law allowed an exception for hotel and restaurant chains as long as each physical location had fewer than 500 employees.

Several industries, particularly in travel, have sought to expand which kinds of nonprofits can qualify, and the House has passed a bill that would allow trade associations, chambers would impose imposes limits on how they can engage in political spending or count their lobbyists as needing funds.

(Updates with Planned Parenthood comment from first paragraph)

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