WASHINGTON House Republicans voted to deny funds to women’s healthcare provider Planned Parenthood for a year on Friday but the action did little to quell party desires to use a spending bill as leverage in their fight to punish the group in an abortion controversy.
Congress adjourned for the weekend with an Oct. 1 government shutdown deadline fast approaching and no clear plan from Republican leaders for extending funding for federal agencies.
Many conservative Republicans had called for the stop-gap spending measure to deny funding to Planned Parenthood, but others in the party, aware of Democratic opposition, had said this would increase the likelihood of a second government shutdown in two years.
House Speaker John Boehner, trying to release some steam from his caucus, chose to delay consideration of a spending bill vote and put the stand-alone defunding bill to a vote, along with a separate measure aimed at banning abortions that involve live births.
Both measures passed easily, largely on party lines.
Planned Parenthood faces allegations, which it denies, of improperly selling fetal tissue from abortions. The non-profit group said Internet videos that have inflamed anti-abortion sentiment among Republicans “falsely” portray its participation in tissue donation programs for medical research.
Several House Republicans said the two bills passed on Friday would be blocked by Senate Democrats, and stronger action to stop Planned Parenthood funding may be necessary.
“I think you still need to continue to look at the funding mechanism as a potential vehicle to stop the murders,” said Representative Bill Flores of Texas, who heads a group of 172 House conservatives.
During debate of the two bills, Democratic Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York said the legislation “attempts to criminalize legal medical care and punish women by rolling back reproductive choices.”
Representative Richard Hudson of North Carolina said he was concerned that anti-Planned Parenthood policy provisions in the spending bill would prompt a shutdown without stopping the practices.
And Representative Roger Williams of Texas said, “There are “people like me who can’t find a way to vote for anything that funds Planned Parenthood.”
The White House again called on Republicans to enter budget talks to ease automatic spending constraints, but said a short funding extension was still needed.
“I would not envision a long extension of funding at current levels, but rather enough time for Congress to finally convene the talks, reach an agreement and implement it,” White House Spokesman Josh Earnest said.