WASHINGTON -- After a group of GOP senators huddled Tuesday afternoon to discuss the recently released undercover "sting" videos of Planned Parenthood, Republicans unveiled legislation to strip the family planning provider of its federal funding.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) fast-tracked the legislation Tuesday night using Rule 14 of Senate procedure, setting up a procedural cloture vote to move the bill to the floor as early as Monday. That all but assures the bill will get a final vote before Senators depart for August recess.
McConnell huddled with Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and a handful of other Republicans Tuesday afternoon to work through details of the bill.
"On the issue of these horrendous videos that we’ve seen with the discussions from Planned Parenthood people, we have a working group ... and it is our plan to have a vote on preceding to a measure that they support sometime before we break for the August recess," McConnell said earlier Tuesday before fast-tracking the bill.
After the meeting, Ernst introduced the legislation, which will defund Planned Parenthood and redirect its federal funds to other women's health organizations.
The push to defund the organization comes after "sting" videos emerged two weeks ago purporting to show Planned Parenthood doctors talking about the illegal sale of fetal body parts after abortions. Planned Parenthood defends its work, saying the videos in fact show doctors discussing reimbursement for the costs incurred for donating fetal tissue for medical research -- a practice that is legal.
Republicans claim the videos are evidence the family planning provider sells the fetal tissue for profit. Some 25 Republican senators signed on to the bill, including Ted Cruz (Texas), John McCain (Ariz.), John Thune (S.D.) and Deb Fischer (Neb.).
"As a mother and grandmother, I find this footage of Planned Parenthood’s role in the harvesting of the organs of unborn babies morally reprehensible and vile,” Ernst said in a statement.
"This legislation would ensure taxpayer dollars for women’s health are actually spent on women’s health -- not a scandal-plagued political lobbying giant,” McConnell added.
In fact, McConnell voted in 1993 to lift a ban on fetal tissue donations after abortions, but the majority leader's office said the new videos have raised questions about whether Planned Parenthood violated the law.
McConnell is betting the bill will win over some Democrats by requiring that the funds still go to women's health services, including prenatal and postpartum care, immunization, family planning services (including contraception), sexually transmitted disease testing and more.
Don Stewart, McConnell's spokesman, said there will be several member conversations with Democrats and that several Democrats have raised concerns about Planned Parenthood.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) isn't too worried about losing Democrats on the legislation, accusing Republicans of catering to a "right-wing, crazy deal."
"I think we have to understand that it is an attack on women's health," Reid said Tuesday, adding that redirecting the money would not garner support among Democrats.
When asked about Sen. John Cornyn's (R-Texas) confidence that the bill would be designed to get 60 votes, Reid quipped, "Good luck to him."
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