Late yesterday morning, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) turned to Twitter to deliver a message to Senate Republicans: “Don’t take something that should be above politics – our sacred duty to veterans – and pull it down into the muck of petty politics.”
It quickly became clear exactly what the Democratic leader was referring to – and the degree to which GOP senators were inclined to ignore her suggestion. The Washington Post reported late yesterday:
The burgeoning controversy over Planned Parenthood’s fetal-tissue practices may have claimed its first victim: a bipartisan bill to help wounded veterans have children.The Women Veterans and Families Health Services Act, a bill authored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) that would require fertility treatment and counseling for “severely wounded, ill, or injured” military members or veterans, had been expected to proceed through the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on Wednesday. But Murray said she has asked that the bill be pulled thanks to proposed amendments from Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) – including one that would have, in Tillis’s words, prevented the Department of Veterans Affairs from working with “organizations that take human aborted babies’ organs and sell them.”
Left with little choice, Murray had to pull her bill – a measure that had been considered uncontroversial – because of the Republicans’ new-found interest in crusading against Planned Parenthood.
It was a discouraging setback for proponents of expanded veterans’ benefits, but it was probably just the opening salvo in a much larger campaign. Politico reported overnight that some GOP lawmakers intend to connect Planned Parenthood to a pending highway bill, too:
Mitch McConnell is eyeing a major breakthrough on a multiyear highway bill that many in Congress doubted could be done. But his colleagues vying for the presidency see something else: one last chance to steal the spotlight on the Senate floor before the first GOP debate in August.
Specifically, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), ostensibly the more libertarian-minded candidate in the 2016 field, “is pushing an amendment to defund Planned Parenthood” by way of a bill to finance infrastructure spending. Politico’s headline asked, “What do highways have to do with Planned Parenthood?” The answer, of course, is nothing, though such details are apparently unimportant right now.
The report added, “Paul is already fundraising off his demands to get a vote on slashing the $528.4 million in government funding that Planned Parenthood receives each year, though he wouldn’t say how far he will go to get that vote on the transportation bill.”
Disclosure: My wife works for Planned Parenthood, but she played no role in this piece.