The Republican push to strip Planned Parenthood of federal health-care funding, which nearly prompted a government shutdown in October, appears to have been abandoned in the latest round of congressional spending negotiations.
“I think they know it was a loser,” Pelosi said to Reuters.
The move does not come as a major surprise. While the release of undercover videos by an antiabortion activist group fueled conservative outrage toward Planned Parenthood over the summer, even some of the most conservative House members had backed away in recent weeks from calls to defund the group entirely.
Federal funding for abortions is already banned, and the proposal to bar Planned Parenthood from drawing on Medicaid or family-planning grant funds to pay for non-abortion health care would prompt Democrats to join together to block the spending bill, spurring a possible government shutdown.
Meanwhile, Republicans on Capitol Hill have moved to channel conservative outrage over Planned Parenthood in other directions. A special investigative panel was created in October, and the Senate on Thursday is set to pass a budget “reconciliation” bill that is expected to reach Obama’s desk, where it will be vetoed because it includes a repeal of the Affordable Health Care Act.
And all that was in the works before last Friday’s killings at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, which has put antiabortion politicians on the defensive.
A House Republican aide, responding to Pelosi’s comments, said, “The main focus for action on Planned Parenthood is with the Senate and the reconciliation bill, which they will vote on this week or next.”
In an interview Thursday, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richard said she welcomed the move. “Certainly any standing down of this very aggressive attack against women’s health access is a good sign,” she said. “I do think that it is a further illustration, though, that the actions they are taking in Washington are 100 percent political. … Access to women’s health care is a completely nonpartisan issue.”
While a provision totally defunding Planned Parenthood might no longer be on the table, conservatives are pushing for other related measures. One that has gained significant traction among House conservatives would allow states to individually decide whether to exclude Planned Parenthood from Medicaid reimbursements. That measure, however, would face equally stiff opposition from Hill Democrats and President Obama, making it highly unlikely to end up in the final bill.
“For most of the riders to succeed, I’m probably going to have some support on the other side,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a senior appropriator, said Wednesday. “The ones that are strictly R vs. D, that’s just harder because we’ve got to be able to get this bill to the floor in the Senate and we’ve got to have a presidential signature.”