As the Senate prepares to debate legislation addressing the financial future of the Highway Trust Fund, several senators are looking to the bill as a vehicle to address controversial issues, including Obamacare and Planned Parenthood’s federal funding.
The Senate voted Wednesday night on a procedural measure to advance the highway funding bill, which has been dubbed a “must-pass” piece of legislation.
Lawmakers have already begun to file amendments and are expected to address issues like Planned Parenthood, Obamacare and Iran in their proposals. At issue, though, is whether Senate leadership will allow them to get a vote.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said on the Senate floor earlier Wednesday that there would be an open amendment process. However, that decision ultimately falls to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
McConnell, R-Ky., has yet to confirm which amendments he will allow to proceed, but the majority leader said last night that he will allow the chamber to vote on at least one: an amendment reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank, an agency that provides taxpayer-backed loans and loan guarantees to foreign countries and companies.
McConnell promised Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a vote to bring the embattled agency back to life last month. Its charter expired June 30.
Despite McConnell’s intention to uphold his promise by allowing a vote on Ex-Im’s reauthorization, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has urged leadership to keep its charter expired.
Additionally, in a press conference last week, Cruz vowed to use “any and all” procedural tools available to stop any measure reauthorizing Ex-Im.
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In an interview with Politico yesterday, the Texas senator looked to leadership as the deciding factor in whether he would use those tools to stop the highway bill.
“It depends whether leadership tries to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank,” he said. “If leadership wants to open this bill up to nongermane amendments that are unrelated to the highway bill, there are a great many topics we should discuss.”
While an Ex-Im amendment will be put before the Senate for consideration, senators have also discussed using the highway bill as a way to address other issues.
Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Cruz have been vocal in discussing the amendments they plan to file to the highway bill, including one that would strip Planned Parenthood of its federal funding.
A number of Republicans criticized the group after two controversial videos were released allegedly showing Planned Parenthood executives discussing the sale of aborted fetal body parts.
Planned Parenthood refuted the videos’ claims, as the group argued that the videos were deliberately edited.
Paul filed his amendment to the bill today, which would eliminate the roughly $500 million Planned Parenthood receives from the government each year.
“Recent video revelations, involving potentially criminal activity, make it more obvious than ever that this organization has absolutely zero respect for the sanctity of human life and is an affront to the most basic human dignity enshrined in our founding documents,” Paul said in a statement. “Not one more taxpayer dollar should go to Planned Parenthood, and I intend to make that goal a reality.”
Cruz also plans to introduce an amendment that would strip Planned Parenthood of its federal funding and prohibit taxpayer dollars from going to an abortion provider under investigation by the government.
He also plans to introduce seven others, including one aimed at ending the “Washington exemption from Obamacare.” The amendment would repeal the federal rule that allows members of Congress and their staff to purchase health insurance on the Washington, D.C., marketplace’s small business exchange.
His remaining measures address illegal immigration, Internet freedom, the Second Amendment and Iran.
“Each of my amendments addresses a critical policy issue that deserves Congress’ full attention,” Cruz said in a statement yesterday. “Whether it’s protecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans, ensuring that taxpayers are not forced to subsidize the abominable actions of Planned Parenthood, or opposing policies like Obamacare, amnesty and Internet taxes which are favorites of the Washington cartel, I intend to fight for policies that demonstrate Washington is working for the American people, not Washington.”