Conservatives are pushing back against a Republican leader’s plan to use a budget tool known as reconciliation to strip Planned Parenthood of its federal funding. Instead, they argue that the tactic should be used to repeal Obamacare as lawmakers originally promised.
In an interview with CQ Roll Call, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise said he would advocate for Republicans to use budget reconciliation to strip Planned Parenthood of its federal funding.
“If one of the objectives is to get a bill in President Obama’s desk that defunds Planned Parenthood, then budget reconciliation is likely the one way to ensure that happens,” he said yesterday. “This is the most surefire way.”
Budget reconciliation is a tool that gives Congress the power to pass legislation with a simple majority—51 votes in the Senate. Senate Democrats used the maneuver to pass Obamacare, and over the last year, Republicans in both chambers of Congress have advocated for using reconciliation to roll back the health care law.
The budget resolution that passed both the House and the Senate earlier this year included reconciliation instructions pertaining to the repeal of Obamacare, and conservatives in the House supported the fiscal blueprint because it called for the repeal of Obamacare by using the procedure.
However, following the release of several undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing the alleged sale of body parts from aborted babies, members of Congress are gearing up for a fight over defunding the organization, with Scalise advocating for the use of the budget tool to strip Planned Parenthood of its federal dollars.
Scalise acknowledged that he wasn’t certain that defunding Planned Parenthood through reconciliation would be successful, saying “there’s no silver bullet,” but he added that he would be working with his Republican colleagues to solidify a strategy to address the organization.
“We’re going to continue meeting with our members when we get back Wednesday and through the weekend until we all come together on a full strategy to go after Planned Parenthood,” Scalise told CQ Roll Call. “We want to keep the pressure on them.”
The majority whip’s plan has earned criticism from conservatives who argue that any attempts to defund Planned Parenthood should be made through the appropriations process.
“Between now and the inauguration of the next president, Planned Parenthood will carry out more than 440,000 abortions,” Dan Holler, spokesman for Heritage Action for America, said in a statement. “The objective is not simply ‘to get a bill on President Obama’s desk.’ The primary objective is to defund this organization. Pro-life members should not be asked to cast a vote for a bill that sends money to Planned Parenthood.”
Holler pointed to the House- and Senate-passed budget resolution, which stated that “the conference agreement affirms the use of reconciliation for the sole purpose of repealing the president’s job-killing health care law,” as a reminder of the promises made to use the tool to repeal Obamacare.
“If they decide to go down a different path, that would be a huge problem for their members and for conservative constituents,” he told The Daily Signal.
In an interview with The Daily Signal, Paul Winfree, director of the Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation and a veteran of the Senate Budget Committee, advised against using reconciliation for anything other than what was specified in the budget resolution.
“In the conference agreement, they clearly state that the point of reconciliation is to provide a path for Congress to repeal Obamacare, and that’s it,” he said. “If they add Planned Parenthood to the reconciliation bill, then it’s going to essentially open up the flood gates so everyone’s pet project is added to reconciliation.
“There’s no reason to start putting tax reform or anything else that somebody might want to accomplish, to throw that into the process as well.”
Winfree added that using reconciliation to strip Planned Parenthood of its federal funding is contrary to what reconciliation is intended to do. Reconciliation, he said, cannot be used to “reduce spending subject to appropriations given that the appropriation hasn’t been made.”
Despite Scalise’s comments, conservatives continue to push for reconciliation to be used for Obamacare.
Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., circulated a letter among his Republican colleagues urging House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to bring a reconciliation bill repealing Obamacare to a vote before Congress.
“Millions of Americans continue to suffer under Obamacare,” the letter said. “We have a responsibility to do everything we can to put an end to it. It’s time for Republicans to fulfill their promise to the American people.”
Conservative lawmakers, including Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Raul Labrador of Idaho, Dave Brat of Virginia, and Mark Meadows of North Carolina, signed onto Walker’s letter, according to the group Students for Liberty, which reminded leadership of the promises conservatives made to the American people before the 2014 midterm elections and the promises leadership made to Republican colleagues regarding the budget resolution.
“As Americans continue to languish under this law due to the rising health care costs, skyrocketing premiums, and entitlements like Medicaid and Medicare driving roughly one-third of the projected spending increase over the next decade,” Walker’s letter continued, “using reconciliation to repeal the president’s health care law is critical.”