When the Republican House majority exits stage right in January, any chance of defunding Planned Parenthood will be leaving also. While it’s understandable that conservatives would be angry about the failure to end federal funding of the abortion provider, there was never really any chance that the GOP would be able to follow through on its campaign promise anyway.
With 51 Republicans in the Senate, it was theoretically possible that a ban on funding Planned Parenthood could be slipped into a budget resolution in order to avoid a Democrat filibuster. However, that strategy ignores the fact that there are Republican supporters of Planned Parenthood in the Senate. Their names are Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
The Republican pickup of two Senate seats in this year’s elections won’t help the matter either. When it comes to the Republican domestic agenda, the gain of two Senate seats is more than offset by the Democrat wave that boosted Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to control of the House. Any attempt at defunding Planned Parenthood will be aborted by House Democrats.
“We told the White House, ‘Don’t sign any budget that funds Planned Parenthood,’” Kristan Hawkins, president of the Students for Life of America said. “‘We need you to uphold your campaign promises and force Congress to uphold theirs.’”
But, in reality, President Trump had little choice. Without the votes to pass a budget that cut Planned Parenthood’s funding, the choice was to either fund the government or shut it down. If the White House had forced a government shutdown over Planned Parenthood funding, they would have eventually had to surrender.
Republicans failed to make a case that convinced the American people that Planned Parenthood should not be funded. Although defunding the group is popular with the Republican base, 62 percent of Americans view Planned Parenthood favorably despite the fact that the electorate is evenly split on abortion.
Politico notes that many Republicans privately concede that frontal assaults on the Planned Parenthood are doomed to fail. Instead, many are looking for alternative strategies that incrementally strip away the group’s federal funding. Proposed changes to Title X by the Trump Administration would make it more difficult for abortion providers to qualify for federal funds. In West Virginia, voters recently approved a constitutional amendment that cuts Medicaid funding for abortion providers. Both moves will likely face legal challenges.
Defunding Planned Parenthood is a good idea but it was always unrealistic without a large Republican majority. The fact that President Trump’s chaotic presidency is quickly eroding Republican majorities at both the federal and state level makes it even more unlikely that Republicans will be able to terminate government funding for nation’s largest abortion provider.