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Republicans’ Plan to Defund Planned Parenthood With Health-Care Bill Breaks Senate Rules

Ally Boguhn

Congressional Republicans intended to use the budget reconciliation process to push through repeal of the Affordable Care Act, as doing so would require a 51-vote majority instead of the typical 60 votes needed to bypass a filibuster.

The U.S. Senate’s Office of the Parliamentarian ruled Friday that some provisions of Senate Republicans’ Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA)—including one that would defund Planned Parenthood and two that would restrict tax credits to plans that cover abortion care—violate the “Byrd Rule” and will need at least 60 votes to pass.

Congressional Republicans intended to use the budget reconciliation process to push through repeal of the Affordable Care Act, as doing so would require a simple 51-vote majority instead of the typical 60 votes needed to bypass a filibuster. But the budget reconciliation process is subject to the Byrd Rule, which, as Rewire has reported, halts “provisions that are ‘merely incidental’ to the budget.”

“In other words,” Rewire‘s Christine Grimaldi has explained, “Congress can’t wield the reconciliation process with a lower vote threshold for the sake of a political agenda—or a partisan vendetta against abortion and Planned Parenthood.”

The parliamentarian’s ruling specifically pointed to the section of the BCRA bill targeting Planned Parenthood as well as “two separate provisions [that] contain Hyde Amendment language to prevent premium tax credits and small business tax credits from being used to purchase health insurance that covers abortion.”

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Dana Singiser, vice president of public policy and government affairs at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, issued a statement agreeing with the parliamentarian’s decision, saying that the primary intent of the provision targeting Planned Parenthood “is clearly political, and the budgetary impact is ‘merely incidental’ to that purpose.”

“No amount of legislative sleight of hand will change the fact that the primary motivation here is to pursue a social agenda by targeting Planned Parenthood because we provide the full range of reproductive health care, including abortion,” said Singiser. “The ‘defund’ Planned Parenthood provision is the epitome of a mean-spirited policy that hurts millions of women and has no place in legislation, period.”

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