With Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote, the Senate approved a bill Thursday to let states strip federal family planning funds from Planned Parenthood, marking the first successful strike against the country’s largest abortion network.
The bill, which already cleared the House and now heads to President Trump, rolls back an Obama-era rule that said states couldn’t deny family planning money to organizations just because they performed abortions.
While other clinics may be affected, both sides acknowledged the fight was about Planned Parenthood, which has been a target for Republicans in Washington and in state capitals across the country in recent years.
“The Obama administration wanted to do everything it could to secure federal funding for Planned Parenthood before they turned over the keys to the Trump administration. With our vote today, we prevented that from happening,” said Sen. Joni Ernst, Iowa Republican and a lead sponsor of the bill.
Democrats vowed political retribution, saying women are already anxious over the GOP’s agenda and will see this as an assault on their health care choices. Planned Parenthood itself blamed a “group of male politicians” for the strike.
Thursday’s vote was dramatic by Capitol Hill standards. With two Republicans defecting, GOP leaders had to rouse Sen. Johnny Isakson, who’s been absent from the Senate for weeks as he recovered from back surgery, to show up and force a 50-50 tie.