Senate Republicans are making a final attempt to defund Planned Parenthood just months before the midterm elections, which could give Democrats the House majority they need to make passing such measures far more difficult.
This week, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul proposed an amendment that would block federal dollars from Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers with hopes of attaching it to the spending bill Congress needs to approve by September 30 to prevent what would be the third government shutdown in 2018.
"This is our chance to turn our words into action, stand up for the sanctity of life, and speak out for the most innocent among us that have no voice," Paul said in a statement, according to The Hill.
Paul had been a vocal critic of March's omnibus spending bill, which passed in the House and Senate and got the president's signature despite the fact that it included funding for Planned Parenthood.
"It’s a good thing we have Republican control of Congress or the Democrats might bust the budget caps, fund Planned Parenthood and Obamacare, and sneak gun control without due process into an Omni…wait what?" he wrote on Twitter at the time.
President Donald Trump has made several attempts to defund Planned Parenthood during his time in office, hoping to make good on a campaign promise of great importance to his anti-abortion constituency. But so far few have succeeded—even in a GOP-controlled Congress, as Paul pointed out.
Republicans in the Senate last took aim at the organization in May 2017, when their proposed legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act included a measure to defund Planned Parenthood for a year. The bill passed in the House, but fell short of earning the 60 votes it needed to pass in the Senate.
Trump has since taken matters into his own hands, announcing plans to reintroduce a Reagan-era domestic gag rule rule that would block federal family planning grants from going toward organizations that perform abortions or provide any information on the procedure or its availability to patients. The Hyde Amendment already prevents any federal dollars from going toward abortions, but the gag rule would have a significant impact on groups like Planned Parenthood, which would have to choose between ending abortion services or losing out on funding that helps cover low-income patients' birth control, wellness exams, cancer screenings, and STD testing.
In the meantime, Paul may want to use the high stakes associated with passing next month's spending bill as political incentive to "stand up for the sanctity of life"—but even other anti-abortion GOP senators are wary of attaching any amendments that could put the legislation in jeopardy.
“What we are trying to do is move our bills and that could be a spoiler" Alabama Senator Richard Shelby told reporters on Monday. Still, he said there's a chance Senate Republicans could bring Paul's amendment to a vote in the coming days. "That could change,” he said.