Senate Democrats blocked a Republican bill Thursday that would keep the government from shutting down at month’s end but strip funding from Planned Parenthood.
The bill was voted down 47-52, with eight Republicans crossing over to oppose the measure and one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, voting with Republicans for a second time to end funding for Planned Parenthood. Many of the Senate Republicans who voted against Thursday’s spending bill say they don’t believe the fight over Planned Parenthood funding should threaten the operation of the government.
Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins who opposed the measure, warned against the strategy on Tuesday when the vote was initially announced. “I don’t think the two issues should be linked,” Collins said Tuesday. “I think that we need a clean CR in order to make sure the government does not shut down and that is my top priority.”
The bill, which would have kept the government open through Dec. 11, was Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s opening move in what has become a high-stakes game of budget chicken. The Republican leader has been very clear that his end goal is to avoid a shutdown, but if—and how—he will achieve this remains up in the air, especially as some Republicans say they won’t vote for any measure that extends federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
McConnell has repeatedly warned his caucus that attaching the Planned Parenthood measure to a government funding bill would fail. Thursday’s vote demonstrated that point to conservatives in the Senate, and perhaps more importantly, the House. McConnell is now expected to bring up a clean continuing resolution to keep the government open through Dec. 11. That measure should pass the Senate, but it’s unclear when the bill will clear the upper chamber and whether the House can stomach it.
A spending bill must pass through both houses and be signed by the president by Sept. 30 to prevent a government shutdown. Conservatives, including the House Freedom Caucus and Sen. Ted Cruz, have vowed to oppose any measure that continues federal funding of Planned Parenthood.
The fight over abortion on the Hill stems from the release of a series of sting videos allegedly showing Planned Parenthood illegally selling fetal tissue. The organization denies the allegations, saying it donated them to medical research and only charged the overhead costs.
With support for a clean continuing resolution in the Democratic caucus and a large portion of the Republican majority as well, Cruz and others cannot prevent the Senate from passing the funding bill, but he could delay it. The Senate requires unanimous approval to shorten its lengthy process for considering and voting on new legislation. With just four legislative days left for Congress to agree on a funding bill before the Sept. 30 deadline, Cruz could wield a lot of power over the clock.
After the vote, Cruz did not say what, if any, action he will be taking next to oppose a clean continuing resolution.
“The timing of the vote is not consequential, whether the vote is Saturday or Sunday or Monday,” he told reporters after the vote. “What’s consequential is that we do the right thing, and so my focus is on urging Republican leadership and all Republicans to stand up and do the right thing - to honor the commitments we made to the men and women who elected us.”
Sen. Rand Paul, who is running against Cruz for the Republican presidential nomination, opposed Thursday’s bill — but not, his office insisted in a statement — because he disagrees with Cruz on the Planned Parenthood issue. Paul opposed the bill because he does not support the continuing resolution and, his office added, has never supported one since entering Congress in 2010.
“Sen. Rand Paul today proved that he is the only candidate willing to stand up to the Washington Machine and put an end to its out-of-control spending. … Sen. Paul has led the charge against Planned Parenthood and introduced legislation to defund it,” Paul’s office said in a statement. “This Short-Term Continuing Resolution, however, does everything except resolve the problem— it is a canard. This ‘resolution’ will add $400 billion in new debt over the full year and a $10 billion increase over the budget caps.”