Washington, Mar 31 (AP) Republican legislation letting states deny federal family planning money to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers squeezed narrowly through the Senate, rescued by an ailing GOP senator who returned to the Capitol after back surgery and a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence.
In Congress’ latest clash mixing the politics of abortion, women’s health and states’ rights, Pence cast the decisive vote in a 51-50 roll call yesterday. The tally had been tied after two GOP senators, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Maine’s Susan Collins, joined Democrats opposing the measure.
Senate approval sent the legislation to President Donald Trump, who was expected to sign it. The House voted its consent last month.
The bill erases a regulation imposed by former President Barack Obama shortly before he left office that lets states deny family planning funds to organisations only if they are incapable of providing those services. Some states have passed laws in recent years denying the money to groups that provide abortions.
Passage gives Republicans and anti-abortion groups a needed victory just six days after the party’s highly touted health care overhaul disintegrated in the House due to GOP divisions. Besides erasing much of Obama’s 2010 health care law, the failed House bill would have blocked federal funds for Planned Parenthood for a year.
There is already a ban on using federal funds for abortion except for rare instances.
Democrats assailed the legislation as an attack on women, two months after Trump’s inauguration prompted a women’s march on Washington that mushroomed into anti-Trump demonstrations around the nation.
“While Trumpcare was dealt a significant blow last week, it is clear that the terrible ideas that underpin it live on with Republicans in Congress,” said Sen Patty Murray, D-Wash, using a nickname for the failed House health care bill.
Murray, among a stream of Democratic women senators who spoke, called the Senate measure “shameful” and “dangerous.” Republicans said the measure would give states more freedom to decide how to spend family planning funds. States would be free to divert money now going to groups that provide abortion to other organisations that don’t, like community health centers.
“It substituted Washington’s judgment for the needs of real people,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, said of Obama’s rule.
With Republicans holding 52-48 control of the Senate, the Collins and Murkowski defections could have derailed the bill because Sen Johnny Isakson, R-Ga, has been absent since Feb 20, when he had spinal surgery. (AP)
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.