Thursday, September 24, 2015

Senate Blocks Government Funding Bill Tied To Abortion

from thehuffingtonpost

No shutdown avoided today.

Michael McAuliff
Senior Congressional Reporter, The Huffington Post
Headshot of Laura Barron-Lopez
Laura Barron-Lopez
Congressional Reporter, The Huffington Post

Posted: 09/24/2015 03:13 PM EDT | Edited: 09/24/2015 06:41 PM EDT

WASHINGTON -- With less than a week before the government runs out of money, the Senate failed Thursday to advance a bill that would have kept federal offices open, but defunded Planned Parenthood.

Senate Democrats objected to the effort to target the family planning and health care provider in a government funding measure. The Senate voted 47-52 to filibuster the bill, effectively blocking it.

The vote was a foregone conclusion: Democrats had hammered the plan last week when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced that he would try it, apparently to appease anti-abortion members of his caucus led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Democrats slammed McConnell for proceeding.

"We've communicated our priorities. We've tried to sit down at the negotiating table, ready to keep the government open," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said. "Inserting into this debate a meaningless, losing attack on women is just a waste of time. But they -- they, the Republicans -- decided to once again place partisan ideological agendas over the well-being of the nation."

All the Democrats except Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) voted against the measure. A sizable minority of Republicans also voted against it, including Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Dean Heller (Nev.), Rand Paul (Ky.), Tom Cotton (Ark.), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Susan Collins (Maine) and Ben Sasse (Neb.).

After the vote, McConnell immediately filed a so-called clean continuing resolution -- that is, without the provision defunding Planned Parenthood. The Senate will take its first procedural vote on the funding measure on Monday evening. The measure would fund the government through Dec. 11, giving Democrats and Republicans time to work out their substantial differences over long-term spending. The GOP budget calls for boosting military spending but not domestic programs, as Democrats would like.

Congress has until the end of Sept. 30 to pass a spending bill.

McConnell's steps could be complicated by Cruz, who has circulated a letter in both chambers of Congress asking like-minded members to defund Planned Parenthood at all costs. He was also reported to be meeting with House members Thursday to plot strategy.

The vote came just hours after Pope Francis' address to Congress, which called for U.S. leaders to exhibit cooperation and respect in all they do. Pressed on how he'd balance that with his agenda for the next few days, Cruz told reporters that "speaking the truth is entirely consistent with decorum and civility."

"Speaking the truth has power. And throughout the course of my tenure in the Senate and throughout the course of the campaign that is ongoing now, what I have endeavored to do is speak the truth with a smile," Cruz said of his tactics in urging Republicans to take a stand by pushing Congress over the fiscal cliff.

McConnell on Thursday blamed Democrats for the standoff, noting that they have blocked the 12 appropriations bills that are needed in normal times to fund the government. Democrats have balked at those, saying the bills reflect no Democratic priorities.

McConnell also said that Planned Parenthood deserves to be defunded while Congress investigates the recent series of sting videos targeting the group.

"Let us agree that the scandal at Planned Parenthood is deeply, deeply unsettling. Let us agree that it makes sense to at least place a scandal-plagued political organization on leave without pay," McConnell said.

"There's no reason to continue blocking every attempt to fund the government or to protect political allies that are mired in scandal," McConnell added.

If the Senate passes a clean bill, it does not guarantee there will be no government shutdown. The House would have to pass the same bill, with no extraneous riders, in order for the legislative process to meet the Sept. 30 deadline. If a different measure passed the House, it would have to go back to the Senate, where it could be tied up in parliamentary procedure if Cruz or Democrats opposed the changes.

The story has been updated to note that after the vote, Sen. McConnell offered a clean funding bill, and later set up a procedural vote on it for early next week. 

MORE: Government Shutdown, Shutdown, Senate Democrats, Mitch McConnell, Government Funding, Planned Parenthood, Ted Cruz

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