POLITICS

GOP Senator Has Some Harsh Words For Her Party About The Planned Parenthood Fight

"They can’t answer the question, 'What’s the endgame for success here?'"

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) doesn't want to play games anymore.

In a matter of days, the government could shut down if Congress doesn't pass a continuing resolution to keep it open for a few more months, and Ayotte said Tuesday that she is "tired" of the "games" her party is playing.

Earlier in the day, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) set up a procedural vote on a measure that would fund the government at current spending levels until Dec. 11, while also defunding Planned Parenthood for one year. That vote, which will take place Thursday, is expected to fail as Democrats have vowed to block any measure stripping the family planning provider of funding.

In a roughly 15-minute rant on the Senate floor, which she also broadcast on her Twitter account, Ayotte said the tactic only brings the government "closer to the brink of shutdown." 

The senator, who is up for re-election in 2016, chided her fellow Republicans for pushing a strategy she argues is a "game of chicken."

"I’m tired of the political games," she said. "I’m tired of the president’s game on this. I’m tired of the people on my side of the aisle who are pushing this strategy even though they know they don’t have the votes to pass the U.S. Senate, and they certainly don’t have the votes to override a presidential veto."

Ayotte said she has asked her Republican colleagues who support tethering Planned Parenthood to government funding where they think they will get the votes to reach 60, the number needed simply to pass the bill, and then the 67 needed to override a veto by President Barack Obama. It's a question Ayotte said she also asked in 2013 when the last shutdown happened over Republican attempts to defund Obamacare.

"We saw the movie in 2013, and I don’t think we should relive that movie," she said. "Let’s remember what happened when you shut the government down and you reopen it -- it costs you more money. So if you care about the fiscal state of the country, let’s not waste money shutting the government down with no result."

Ayotte said that while she wants to redirect Planned Parenthood's funds to community health centers as much as the next Republican, the current strategy isn't the way to do it.   

"And so therefore they can’t answer the question, 'What’s the endgame for success here?' even if you feel as passionately about these issues as we all do," she said. "The answer is they don’t know the answer."

Republicans have tried multiple times to defund the family planning provider, but the recent push comes after the release of heavily edited undercover videos from an anti-abortion group alleging that Planned Parenthood traffics in baby parts. The organization does donate fetal tissue for research, which is legal, and the videos were found to be manipulated many times over, according to fact-checkers.  

Ayotte said that picking a fight over Planned Parenthood now would only "undermine" the pro-life cause.

Rather than have "political show votes," she charged, the Senate should vote on "a clean funding bill now so that we aren’t wasting time."

"I cannot in good conscience participate again in this process when I have not heard a strategy for success," she said.

Asked who else in her conference shares her view, Ayotte told The Huffington Post after her speech that "there is a lot of support in our caucus not to shut the government down."

At least one GOP senator agrees with her: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said that a clean spending bill to keep the government open is the direction in which the Senate “ought to end up” moving.

McConnell himself has said multiple times since August that the Senate doesn't have the votes to defund Planned Parenthood, and that attaching the defunding provision to a resolution to keep the government open would be a futile exercise. If Thursday's vote fails, the Senate will need to bring up a clean funding bill almost immediately in order to prevent a shutdown, and the House will have to follow quickly thereafter.