Why Show Votes on Planned Parenthood Aren’t Fooling Anybody

By Published on September 26, 2015

It’s hard to keep up with all the “voting” taking place on Capitol Hill led by Republicans to “show” how committed they are to furthering pro-life issues.

Whether through standalone bills to defund Planned Parenthood, continuing resolutions that fund the rest of the government but redirect Planned Parenthood dollars to other qualified clinics providing women’s health care, or measures such as the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act – a full play-by-play of each effort isn’t necessary, since ultimately they all ran out of steam, or went down to defeat. And with little fanfare.

The roadblock has largely been the U.S. Senate.

Republicans have a majority with 54 seats but, as you’ve likely heard GOP leaders explain, it takes 60 votes to “invoke cloture”, meaning to end debate, so a bill can move to the Senate floor for an actual vote. And, as we’ve been told time and time again, even if they could get that, they don’t have the 67 votes needed to override a presidential veto and President Obama has promised to veto any legislation defunding Planned Parenthood.

So, according to GOP leadership, with Sen. McConnell saying so earlier this month, we might as well just forget about any meaningful action on all this until a Republican president is elected, presumably in 2017.

But if that is the case, why hold votes on anything that Senate minority leader and obstructionist extraordinaire Harry Reid,D-Nev., threatens to filibuster or Obama threatens to veto?

As my Heritage colleague Rachel Bovard, director of Policy Services, and a 10-year veteran of Capitol Hill explains, this hasn’t been the case for other legislation deemed a priority:

“The irony here is that Senator McConnell has spent the last year telling conservatives that their priorities — their bills, amendments and requested floor debates – need to wait. This is a patently absurd claim for him to make given that the Senate spent two-and-a-half weeks passing legislation to authorize the Keystone Pipeline, knowing full well that President Obama would veto it.”

Good point.

And let’s remember, when McConnell didn’t have enough votes to get the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal through the Senate, he was willing to make backroom deals, potentially sacrificing other conservative priorities like closing down the Export-Import Bank, to get the numbers he needed. Where is such wheeling and dealing when it comes to finding more votes to bring a defunding effort of Planned Parenthood to the Senate floor? Yes, yes, we know there aren’t 67 votes to override a veto but as majority leader, he could invoke Senate rules that make it painful for Democrats to keep up their filibuster efforts.

For one, McConnell could make defunding Planned Parenthood the pending business of the Senate and invoke the “two speech rule.” As my colleague Bovard explains:

The two-speech rule has been a tool of the Senate for more than two centuries. It holds that no senator may speak more than twice on the same subject on the same legislative day. Essentially, the two-speech rule wears out the opposing party by forcing every one of their members to come to the floor to speak in opposition to the pending business (in this case, defunding Planned Parenthood). If the majority party is on the floor and ready to vote down any effort to amend or change the Planned Parenthood defund bill, then this quickly becomes a war of attrition, and it becomes possible to break a filibuster through sheer exhaustion.

In addition to the two-speech rule, McConnell has the ability to bring bills of his choosing to the floor. If he was truly committed to making the Democrats filibuster a bill that funded the entire government — except for Planned Parenthood — he has the ability to force them to take that vote once, twice, or as many times as he pleases.

But this doesn’t just happen. Senate rules are not self-executing. They must be enforced. Why isn’t McConnell doing so? If his answer is that there would be a public backlash to fighting battles he knows Obama will ultimately veto, he should take notice of the results of a public opinion poll taken just last week.

An American Perceptions Initiative survey, a project of the Heritage Foundation’s communication team, found overwhelming support for lawmakers to stand up for legislation they believe in even when the president has vowed to veto it.

Here was the language setting up the question for survey participants:

Some people believe Republicans should only pass legislation that has enough votes to overcome a presidential veto.  As much as Republicans in Congress might feel the legislation is needed or what they were elected to do, it is just political grandstanding and a waste of time to pass legislation, when they know ahead of time that it will not survive a presidential veto.

Other people believe Republicans should pass the legislation they feel is needed or accomplishes what they were elected to do, even if they know ahead of time that the President will veto it. They feel it is important for Republicans in Congress to stand up for the policies and laws the people in their districts and states elected them to represent.  The President may veto a popular bill and it may never become law, but it gives voters a chance to hold him and his party accountable at election time.

The results?

A whopping 68 percent said Congress should pass the legislation they feel is needed, even if it may be vetoed by the president.

Only 32 percent said Congress should only pass the legislation that the president will sign or can withstand a veto.

It would seem that fighting the good fight, even when you may ultimately lose, is not a losing proposition with the American public.

The GOP’s conservative base may not know all the arcane rules of the Senate, but they have a pretty strong inkling more could have be done to put Democrats on the defensive — and this latest round of “show” votes on defunding Planned Parenthood hasn’t fooled anybody.


Copyright 2015 The Daily Signal

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Like the article? Share it with your friends! And use our social media pages to join or start the conversation! Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, MeWe and Gab.

Military Photo of the Day: Happy Flag Day
Tom Sileo
More from The Stream
Connect with Us