(Bloomberg) — Republican leaders in Congress are considering a pledge to hold a separate vote on defunding Planned Parenthood as a way to keep the issue from derailing legislation to keep the government running, said congressional aides with knowledge of the discussions.
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In private discussions, the leaders are looking at using reconciliation procedures to let a Planned Parenthood bill come up for a filibuster-proof Senate vote, the aides said.
Handling the issue that way would postpone the fight over federal funding for the medical services that Planned Parenthood provides to the poor, and deprive Democrats of being able to accuse the majority party of threatening to shut down the government to make a stand against an abortion provider.
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Some Republican presidential candidates, including Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, have demanded that legislation to fund federal agencies after Sept. 30 include a provision barring abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood from receiving federal money.
Lawmakers return Sept. 8 from their summer recess. They already face a time crunch and a broader battle over the annual appropriations bills.
Democrats have blocked Senate action on those, arguing that spending shouldn’t be capped at the levels mandated in the Budget Control Act, Public Law 112-25.
Using reconciliation as the vehicle would force a Senate vote on the Planned Parenthood issue, which so far Democrats have blocked. The leaders could combine Planned Parenthood provisions with language repealing parts of the Affordable Care Act into a package that, under reconciliation procedures, would require only a simple majority of members.
The combination of the Obamacare and Planned Parenthood provisions would be attractive to many rank-and-file Republicans. Passage would be all but guaranteed — as would a veto by President Obama.