- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Senate voted Thursday to preserve fast-track budget language that would defund Planned Parenthood for one year as punishment for its abortion practice, part of a marathon session of votes on a bill that most notably repeals Obamacare.

Republicans beat back the nonbinding amendment, 52-48, that would have restored funding for the organization.

A trio of centrist Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — authored the provision, bucking their party’s intent to yank federal funding from the organization in the wake of undercover videos that appeared showed officials negotiating the sale of fetal body parts.

Ms. Collins said she feared that women who rely on Planned Parenthood for non-abortion services would lose the health care provider of their choice.

Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat, split from his party and voted against the amendment.

The Senate also voted to permanently repeal Obamacare’s so-called “Cadillac tax,” 90 votes to 10. The whopping margin shows the bipartisan appetite to dismiss the tax on generous employee health plans, which takes effect in 2018.

Congress hasn’t figured out how to replace an estimated $90 billion the tax will bring in over the next decade, and the White House has argued against repeal, saying the tax is a check on overly generous plans that may encourage people to overuse health care.

Republicans are hoping to cap the “vote-a-rama” late Thursday with final passage of the fast-track budget bill, which President Obama will surely veto.

Though proposed changes to the bill won’t become law, the amendments allowed either side to go on record on a series of issues before a pivotal election year.

Although it fell short, the push to restore Planned Parenthood funding could allow its Republican authors to vote for the overall package, knowing they tried to amend the bill.

Republicans also pushed aside an amendment by Sen. Patty Murray, Washington Democrat, that would replace the defunding language with text that sets up a fund to protect and secure women’s health clinics, a response to a post-Thanksgiving shooting in Colorado that killed three people.

Yet the GOP was unable to crest a 60-vote threshold to restore health plans that consumers lost when Obamacare took full effect in 2014.

The measure proposed by Sen. Ron Johnson, Wisconsin Republican who must defend his seat next year, was a direct rebuke to Mr. Obama’s flawed promise that people who liked their plans could keep them under his law.

Democrats said health plans change all the time, so there was little sense in resurrecting lackluster plans that died with the advent of health reform.

“This is something of a health care Frankenstein,” Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat, said.



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