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Pence breaks Senate tie to undo Obama regulation blocking states from defunding Planned Parenthood

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote as the Senate voted Thursday to overturn an Obama-era federal regulation that blocked states from stripping federal family planning funds from Planned Parenthood. (Andrew Harrer/Getty Images)

The U.S. Senate voted Thursday to overturn an Obama-era federal regulation blocking states from stripping federal family planning funds from Planned Parenthood after Vice President Mike Pence cast a tie-breaking vote.

In the final days of former President Barack Obama’s administration, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a regulation barring states from stripping federal funds from Planned Parenthood.

The regulation — which went into effect only two days before Obama left office — prevented states from restricting the ability of “specific types of providers,” such as Planned Parenthood, to receive Title X funds “based on reasons unrelated to their ability to provide required services in an effective manner.”

Republicans vowed to undo the regulation, and in February, the House of Representatives voted to rescind it. Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) spearheaded that effort in the House.

On Thursday, Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted with Democrats against repealing the regulation, requiring Pence to cast a tie-breaking vote.

Earlier in the day, Collins and Murkowski voted with Democrats against starting debate on repealing the regulation, forcing Pence to cast a tie-breaking vote for the Senate to start debate.

Politico reported that Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), who is recovering from back surgery, returned to the Senate floor “using a walker inside the chamber” to vote to repeal the measure.

During remarks on the Senate floor, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who introduced the legislation to repeal the regulation in the Senate, thanked her colleagues for their support of the measure and said she anticipates that President Donald Trump will sign it.

Ernst argued that the regulation took power away from states in favor of Washington.

It should be the right of our states to allocate sub-grants under the Title X program in the way that best fits the needs of the people living there. Unfortunately, like many other rules issued during the Obama administration, this rule attempted to empower federal bureaucrats in Washington and silence our states.

In a statement, Planned Parenthood slammed what they called a “group of male politicians” for the vote, although it was introduced by Ernst and Black in their respective chambers.

Dawn Laguens, the executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in the statement that the vice president “went from yesterday's forum on empowering women to today leading a group of male politicians in a vote to take away access to birth control and cancer screenings.”

There’s a reason they could barely get enough votes to get this bill through a procedural step: People are sick and tired of politicians making it even harder for them to access health care, and they will not stand for it. Four million people depend on the Title X family planning program, and this move by DC politicians would endanger their health care. This would take away birth control access for a woman who wants to plan her family and her future. Too many people still face barriers to health care, especially young people, people of color, those who live in rural areas, and people with low incomes. We will never stop fighting for the right of every person to access the care they need.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List, said in a statement, “Today, Congress is sending a Resolution to President Trump ensuring that states are not forced to fund America’s abortion giant, Planned Parenthood, with Title X tax dollars.”

Dannenfelser also expressed gratitude to Black, Ernst, Pence, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) "for their efforts to undo Obama’s parting gift to the big abortion industry led by Planned Parenthood."

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