When I first saw the videos showing health care workers callously discussing the selling of baby body parts, my heart sunk. As more and more videos come out, the more sickened I am. I have been pro-life my entire life, and as the father of four daughters, I firmly believe all life is precious. Hearing health care providers talk about harvesting organs from babies as if they were animals being slaughtered for meat is beyond disturbing.
This is why the House’s vote to freeze all funding for Planned Parenthood is so important. Congresswoman Diane Black’s (R-Tenn.) bill, H.R. 3134, would stop the funding for one year while the House investigates its practices and ensures federal laws are being followed.
In the previous Congress, I voted to defund Planned Parenthood, but the Senate refused to consider the measure. Freezing funding until investigators get to the bottom of this is the right way to address the situation. I hope the Senate promptly puts this bill up for a vote and sends it to the president to sign into law.
Because Congress did not complete the appropriations process, current government funding ends on Sept. 30 and Congress must pass a continuing resolution to keep the government operating. Many suggest Congress should use this bill to cut off federal dollars to Planned Parenthood by shutting down the entire federal government. To say that shutting down the government would solve this problem is misleading.
There are two types of government spending: mandatory, or autopilot spending, and discretionary spending which is determined by Congress through the annual appropriations process. Planned Parenthood isn’t specifically mentioned in any appropriations bills. It receives some of its federal dollars through the appropriations process by way of Title X grants awarded by the Department of Health and Human Services. Title X grants are meant to be used for family planning, research and training. Many public health clinics receive Title X funds, including quality organizations that do not provide abortions.
Defunding Planned Parenthood in the appropriations process is an impossible task, as one can see by looking at the numbers. Although we can pass a bill that stops funding in the House, it can’t survive a Senate filibuster. When a bill to defund Planned Parenthood came up in the Senate recently, it couldn’t get the 60 votes it needed to survive a filibuster and failed to advance by a vote of 53-46. Furthermore, the president has vowed to veto any funding bill that cuts off Planned Parenthood.
Imagine for a moment Senate Republicans were able to send a bill to defund the organization to the president by either convincing seven additional members they still need to overcome a filibuster and allow for a vote, or by using the so called “nuclear option.” President Obama would veto it. To override a veto, a bill needs the support of 2/3 of the members of both the House and the Senate. Without super majorities in both the chambers to overcome presidential vetoes, we need a pro-life president.
Even Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, said: “But realistically, with President Obama in the White House holding that veto pen, I don’t know that any government shutdown could accomplish what we want. What we have to do is get a new pro-life president in, and we’d have a much better chance of actually taking away their money.”
Despite this reality, some of my colleagues continue to call for a government shutdown over Planned Parenthood funding. My questions to them are: “What is your path to victory? How are you suddenly going to convince Democrats who just voted against defunding Planned Parenthood to override a veto?”
Planned Parenthood receives between $50 million and $60 million in federal discretionary funding through the appropriations process every year, a much smaller share than the amount of federal money they receive through mandatory spending. Mandatory spending is not addressed in the annual appropriations process, but is predetermined by existing law. Planned Parenthood receives reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid, just like other healthcare providers, of about $400 million annually. These reimbursements would continue in a shutdown, although they could possibly be delayed. The remaining $50 million in government funding that they receive is through social services block grants, child health block grants or through state and local funds. By comparison, Planned Parenthood reported $1.3 billion in revenue in its last annual report.
To be clear, I oppose these horrific practices and believe taxpayers shouldn’t have to support organizations that condone these actions. For every Planned Parenthood facility, there are 20 federally funded comprehensive care clinics, known as Federally Qualified Health Centers or Rural Health Centers that don’t provide abortions, offering women alternatives. Wouldn’t federal money be better spent at these centers? Furthermore, wasn’t Obamacare, with its “low-cost” health coverage and “free” women’s health services, supposed to decrease demand for places like Planned Parenthood?
Given the challenges we face at home and abroad, shutting down the government when there is no end game in sight is not something I am willing to risk. The best way to put an end to federal funding of Planned Parenthood is to complete an investigation to determine which federal laws have been violated, which is why I voted for H.R. 3134. I support the Hyde Amendment that prohibits federal funding of abortions but permits funding of other family planning activities. I will follow these investigations into Planned Parenthood’s actions closely because the most innocent among us, babies, deserve nothing less than the strongest protections possible.