Congress Plans To Fast Track A Bill Defunding Planned Parenthood This Week

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington CREDIT: AP PHOTO/JACQUELYN MARTIN
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington CREDIT: AP PHOTO/JACQUELYN MARTIN

Members of Congress returned to Capitol Hill this week, following a holiday break during which a gunman shot multiple people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. And they’re just as doggedly focused on Planned Parenthood as ever.

Senate Republicans are prepared to forge ahead this week with a legislative tactic to fast track a bill to dismantle Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood. The process, called reconciliation, allows lawmakers to advance budget-related measures with just 51 votes, rather than the 60-vote threshold that’s normally required to prevent a filibuster.

According to Roll Call, Senate Republicans concluded a conference meeting on Monday evening feeling “enthused” about their plan to push the legislation toward President Obama’s desk as early as Thursday. Although the president is expected to veto the bill, it could set the stage for a bigger fight as Congress negotiates a funding bill to avert a government shutdown later this month.

The provision to defund Planned Parenthood was added to the Obamacare repeal bill earlier this year specifically in response to a right-wing video campaign that accuses the organization of selling “aborted baby parts.” There isn’t any credible evidence to support these accusations. Nonetheless, Congress leaped into action after the release of the videos, forming multiple committees to investigate the group’s activity and bringing in the organization’s president to testify.

The unfounded accusations against Planned Parenthood have been linked to the recent tragedy in Colorado. “No more baby parts,” the suspected shooter Robert Dear, who killed three people in the clinic and wounded multiple others, reportedly told authorities.

But lawmakers haven’t been deterred from using this inflammatory rhetoric to target the national women’s health organization, downplaying the connection between the two.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the Republican whip, told the Associated Press that the shooting and the investigations into whether Planned Parenthood is illegally profiting from aborted fetal tissue donations are “separate issues completely.”

In addition to moving ahead with plans to defund Planned Parenthood, lawmakers in Washington show no signs of reconsidering any of the multiple investigations spurred by the video campaign. In the aftermath of the shooting, some Democrats have argued that Congress should drop the “witch hunts against Planned Parenthood” — but Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has indicated that the shooting will not change the House’s plans to proceed with a special panel that’s been compared to the panel that spent millions of taxpayer dollars investigating Benghazi.