September 24, 2015, 03:12 pm
By Jordain Carney
The Senate on Thursday rejected a short-term spending bill that would defund Planned Parenthood, thwarting the opening move by Republican leaders to avoid a government shutdown on Oct. 1.
Senators voted 47-52 on ending debate on the short-term continuing resolution, well short of the 60 votes needed. The legislation would have funded the government through Dec. 11.
The vote divided Republicans, with eight of them breaking ranks. Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Susan Collins (Maine), Tom Cotton (Ark.), Dean Heller (Nev.) Mark Kirk (Ill.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Ben Sasse (Neb.) all voted against moving forward.
Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) was the only Democrat to vote in favor.
The outcome, which was widely expected, paves the way for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to bring forward a “clean” short-term spending bill, should he choose to do so.
McConnell ahead of the vote suggested the blame for the funding showdown rested squarely with Democrats.
“I regret the Democratic leadership determined a crisis would be necessary to advance a policy aim of growing the government and that our colleagues decided accordingly to block every single funding bill,” he said. “We’ve been forced to pursue a continuing resolution as a result.”
The majority leader could file cloture on a clean funding bill in the afternoon, likely as an amendment to a House-passed shell bill. That could set the stage for a final vote early next week.
One senator who could drag out the process is Sen. Ted Cruz.
The Texas Republican, who is running for president, has slammed Republican leadership during the funding fight, telling reporters that they “will support 100 percent of the priorities of Democrats.”
Cruz could try to force weekend work by objecting to a request to adjourn on Friday, but he could be rebuffed by a majority vote.
The presidential hopeful has reasons of his own to avoid weekend work, as he is currently scheduled to campaign in Iowa on Saturday.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), questioned as to whether the Senate would work this weekend, said “no.” Asked if he was sure, he replied, “yeah, I’m pretty sure.”
The White House, meanwhile, reiterated its pledge to veto any spending bill that reaches President Obama’s desk without funding for Planned Parenthood.
“By eliminating Federal funding for a major provider of health care, the Senate amendment to H.J.Res. 61 would limit access to health care for women, men, and families across the Nation, and disproportionately impact low-income individuals,” the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement.
Senate Democrats, and even some Republicans, slammed Thursday’s vote, suggesting it was a waste of time with less than a week left before government funding expires and federal workers are furloughed — something that last happened in 2013.
Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Thursday’s vote was the latest in a line of Republican “publicity stunts.”
“Instead of voting today on a bipartisan way forward, we’ll have another failed vote,” he said. “Republicans should abandon their commitment to fruitless votes and pass a clean funding bill.”
A clean funding bill is expected to have the votes to pass the Senate, though Cruz and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who is also running for president, have pledged to vote against it.
But it remains to be seen whether a clean spending bill can pass the House.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is under intense pressure from conservative lawmakers to stand firm on defunding Planned Parenthood.
More than 30 House conservatives have pledged to vote against any funding bill that includes Planned Parenthood, spurred by a series of controversial undercover videos dealing with the organization’s handling of fetal tissue.
With chatter of a potential coup against the Speaker growing, Boehner is treading carefully.
He has yet to say whether or not he will schedule a vote on a clean bill, though a decision could be announced when House Republicans gather Friday morning for a conference meeting.
Boehner would likely need Democratic votes to pass a clean funding bill, given the expected defections on the Republican side.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) predicted that the Senate would “quickly” send something to the House, where lawmakers will “have to figure out what they can do.”
“The House has got their own process right now, and I think they’re kind of waiting to see what we do,” added Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.).