House votes to cut off fed funds to Planned Parenthood

WASHINGTON — Planned Parenthood would be blocked from receiving federal funds for the next year under legislation approved last week by the House largely along party lines.

Republicans have pushed for defunding after anti-abortion activists released secretly recorded videos allegedly showing Planned Parenthood officials cavalierly discussing fetal tissue sales. Planned Parenthood has said it properly and legally collects fetal tissue to be donated for medical research with a patient’s consent.

Although Congress has already blocked federal funds from paying for abortion services, Republicans argued that the videotapes have raised serious questions about Planned Parenthood that should make it ineligible for any federal funding.

“If there is reason to investigate, then there is reason to withhold taxpayer dollars during that period of time,” said Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., who sponsored the bill.

Planned Parenthood receives about $450 million in federal funds annually. The Republican bill would shift those funds that go to 700 Planned Parenthood clinics to an estimated 1,300 other community health centers across the country.

Democrats argued Planned Parenthood provides vital care to hundreds of thousands of low-income women who often have nowhere else to turn. They said other community health centers are already overburdened and often do not cover the same territory as Planned Parenthood.

“If we pass this bill, we are telling low-income families in every corner of this country that we count their health and happiness less,” said Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, D-Mass.

The legislation, which was approved 241-187, faces an uncertain future. Senate Democrats blocked an earlier effort to defund Planned Parenthood and President Barack Obama has threatened a veto should it reach his desk.

Reps. Joe Heck, Mark Amodei and Cresent Hardy, all R-Nev., voted to defund Planned Parenthood. Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., voted to support the organization.

The House also approved another abortion-related bill that would impose criminal penalties on medical personnel who fail to aid an infant born after an attempted abortion.

That bill also was approved largely along party lines, 248-177. Heck, Amodei and Hardy voted for the bill. Titus opposed it.

Iran nuclear deal

The Republican-led Senate took another stab at disapproving the Iran nuclear deal.

Republicans failed again to reach a 60-vote majority needed to scuttle the agreement negotiated with Iran by the United States and five other powers seeking to curb the Middle Eastern nation’s ambitions to develop nuclear weapons in return for the removal of crippling economic sanctions.

The key vote was procedural on a resolution that would have denied Iran any U.S. sanctions relief until it recognizes Israel as a sovereign country and releases four imprisoned Americans.

Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., said the Senate could only vote to approve or disapprove the agreement — and not to amend it. Moreover, he questioned whether Tehran-sponsored assaults on Israel would be reduced even if Iran agreed to recognize Israel’s right to exist.

The vote was 53-45, falling seven short of the needed 60-vote majority. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., voted for the resolution. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., opposed it.

Contact Peter Urban at purban@reviewjournal.com or at 202-783-1760.

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