Pence casts tiebreaking vote on abortion bill
States could block funds from clinics for other services.
Republicans needed Vice President Mike Pence to cast a tie-breaking vote Thursday in the Senate to advance legislation that rolls back rules preventing states from withholding certain federal funds to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.
With opposition from two Republican women, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Republicans did not have enough votes with their slim 52-seat majority to advance the bill.
Pence, a longtime opponent of abortion, arrived to cast the vote breaking the 50-50 tie — and was expected to do so later Thursday on final passage.
“We just saw a historic moment,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) “It is a sad day for the United States Senate.”
The measure rolls back a regulation finalized at the end of President Obama’s administration that explicitly prevented states from denying federal Title X family planning funds to clinics, like Planned Parenthood, that also provide abortion services.
Under longstanding practice, no federal funds can be used for abortions, but federal family planning money can flow to the clinics to provide other healthcare services.
Some Republican-led state governments had been moving in recent years to choke off Title X funds from any clinics that offered abortion service. The Obama rule sought to prohibit such practices.
The bill Thursday, sponsored by Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, has already cleared the House.
It is part of a series of bills being passed by Congress under the so-called Congressional Review Act, which allows federal regulations put in place during the final days of the previous administration to be undone by simple majority passage.
Passage by the Senate later Thursday would send it to the White House for President Trump’s signature.