Republicans plan to strip Planned Parenthood of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding as part of their rapid push to repeal President Obama’s health-care overhaul, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Thursday.
Ryan said a defunding measure would appear in a special fast-track bill that is expected to pass Congress as soon as next month. “Planned Parenthood legislation would be in our reconciliation bill,” he said at a news conference in response to a question about plans to defund the organization.
Reconciliation is a special congressional procedure allowing legislation to bypass a Senate filibuster, meaning it would need only a simple majority of senators to pass rather than a 60-vote supermajority.
Ryan made his comments two days after a special investigative panel formed by Republicans issued a report recommending that Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, lose its access to Medicaid reimbursements and federal family-planning funds. The GOP report also recommended that Congress allow states to exclude abortion providers from their Medicaid programs.
The group reported receiving $553 million in government funding in 2014, about half of its total revenue. Congress has barred federal funding for abortions since 1976, but health providers that offer abortions are eligible to use federal funds for other services.
Planned Parenthood estimated that roughly 40 percent of its funding would be at risk should defunding legislation become law. Democrats are gearing up to defend against GOP attempts to attack the group. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other lawmakers rallied Thursday afternoon on Capitol Hill with executives from Planned Parenthood and other women’s health organizations.
“We are going to stand against this with every fiber of our beings,” said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), co-chairwoman of the House Pro-Choice Caucus.
A 2015 reconciliation bill that repealed major parts of Obamacare also included language defunding Planned Parenthood. That bill passed both houses of Congress and was vetoed by Obama. Republicans expect President-elect Donald Trump to sign the coming reconciliation bill. While Trump has spoken positively about Planned Parenthood in the past, he said last year that “as long as they do the abortion I am not for funding Planned Parenthood.”
Republicans have a 52-to-48 Senate majority, and it appears it will be a tough task for Democrats to persuade enough GOP senators to oppose a defunding bill.
Only two Senate Republicans opposed the bill when it passed in 2015: Susan Collins (Maine) and Mark Kirk (Ill.). Kirk is no longer in the Senate, and Collins alone could not block the bill.
At an afternoon news conference called in response to Ryan’s remark, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said it would be a mistake to assume that every senator who supported the 2015 bill — which was certain to be vetoed — would support defunding Planned Parenthood now.
“This is now real,” she said. “I would give a strong message to every member of Congress that you’re going to hold the bag on this if you try to hide behind a vote. The consequences are real.”
Murray suggested GOP women in the Senate could play a key role in fending off the defunding measure:”I know that Republican women here don’t want their party to be known as the party that takes away a woman’s ability to make her own health care choices.”
But conservative groups are already pressing Republican lawmakers to follow through on long-tendered promises to anti-abortion voters.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the conservative Susan B. Anthony List, hailed Ryan’s commitment as a “victory for women’s health care.”
“We commend Speaker Paul Ryan on his continued resolve to fund women’s health care, not abortion,” she said.
Planned Parenthood chief executive Cecile Richards, speaking to reporters Thursday afternoon, said she took Ryan’s threat “very seriously” and said her organization had already launched a major national campaign to mobilize supporters.
Richards pointed to a “real divide” between ideologically driven conservatives and more-pragmatic Republicans who are more wary of a divisive fight — including, she suggested, the president-elect.
“Donald Trump was not elected to defund Planned Parenthood,” she said.
Murray said she hoped Trump would intervene much as he helped to stifle a Republican attempt to rein the House ethics watchdog this week.
“I would ask the president-elect to twitter very loudly tomorrow morning,” she said, “that he stands behind women and that he wants the House to back down.”