Democrats cannot technically stop Republicans from defunding Planned Parenthood in an upcoming reconciliation bill, but they are going to do everything they can to make it very uncomfortable for Republicans to go through with it.
On Thursday, Senate Democrats didn’t waste any time holding a press conference to lambast their colleagues for using reconciliation– the vehicle to repeal Obamacare– to defund Planned Parenthood.
“This is the first shot in what is going to be a battle leading into reconciliation,” said Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). “Frankly, what I am going to be doing every single day now leading into reconciliation is trying to wake up the conscious of other folks. … This cannot be allowed to happen. Too many people will suffer.”
Paul Ryan’s announcement that defunding Planned Parenthood would be part of the reconciliation bill came earlier Thursday. Because reconciliation bills only require a simple majority in the Senate to pass, Democrats don’t have much leverage unless they can convince Republicans to vote against their leaders.
“The only way you stop it is by fighting back,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) told TPM. “And that’s what we’re going to do. Look, I was surprised that in the middle of them talking about the budget reconciliation, all the nominations, everything they’re also doing, they thought they could just slip this in and we wouldn’t notice it. Clearly this has been on their agenda to do. Pence came over yesterday. I don’t know what happened there, but we’re telling them ‘I don’t care when you announce it, we’re fighting back.'”
It was still unclear if Senate Republicans– especially Senate Republican women who have expressed concerns about defunding Planned Parenthood in the past– would go along with House Republicans’ plan.
“I know that Republican women here don’t want their party to be known as the party that takes away a woman’s ability to make their own health care choices,” Murray said.
HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said that he wasn’t sure if Planned Parenthood would be included in the Senate Obamacare repeal measure when he was asked about it earlier in the day.
“Well, let’s see. We’re still writing [the legislation],” he said.