Washington, DC --- A memo on the Senate Budget Committee website was just posted stating that the Senate Parliamentarian has determined that the provision to “defund” Planned Parenthood violates the Byrd Rule and should not be included in the Senate health care repeal bill, or any bill passed through the reconciliation process. Relatedly, the Parliamentarian also determined that abortion restrictions for tax credits also violate the Byrd Rule. This is not surprising news, given that both policies are very clearly motivated by a political agenda and are not primarily budgetary in nature.
Specifically, the Byrd rule stipulates that the budgetary impact of a provision cannot be “merely incidental” to the non-budgetary components of the provision. Simply put: in order to pass muster, a provision must be motivated by budgetary issues, not political ones.
Statement from Dana Singiser, Vice President, Public Policy and Government Affairs, Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Targeting Planned Parenthood because we provide abortion is an obvious violation of the Byrd Rule because the provision’s primary intent is clearly political, and the budgetary impact is ‘merely incidental’ to that purpose. No amount of legislative sleight of hand will change the fact that the primary motivation here is to pursue a social agenda by targeting Planned Parenthood because we provide the full range of reproductive health care, including abortion. The ‘defund’ Planned Parenthood provision is the epitome of a mean-spirited policy that hurts millions of women and has no place in legislation, period. The bottom line is that it is absurd for anyone to assert that the purpose of this provision is budgetary -- when it is plainly clear that this dangerous policy is rooted in a political agenda. This does not change the fact that Trumpcare is the worst bill for women’s health in a generation and should fail.
FACT: “Defunding” Planned Parenthood is not about the budget. It is about targeting Planned Parenthood because we provide abortions, plain and simple.
Speaker Paul Ryan has admitted he is using reconciliation to advance the policy of “defunding” Planned Parenthood -- not to affect the budget. Kaiser reports: “Republicans have defended the inclusion of the Planned Parenthood provision in the reconciliation bill. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), when defending the lack of anti-Planned Parenthood language in the spending bill that passed last week to keep the government running, said the measure ‘needs to be in the reconciliation bill — as it is — because that’s how you get it into law.’”
This follows Speak Ryan consistently outlining his primary motivation to defund Planned Parenthood is because Planned Parenthood health centers provide abortions. At a CNN townhall, Speaker Paul Ryan said: “Well, there is a long-standing principle that we've all believed in. And, by the way this is for pro-choice, pro-life people that we don't want to commit taxpayer funding for abortion. And, Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider. So, we don't want to effectively commit taxpayer money to an organization providing abortions.”
Sen. James Lankford echoes this motivation, saying, “Mr. President, I have been able to sit in and listen to the debate today about bringing forward a bill that will do two simple things: remove funding from the single largest provider of abortions in the country....”
The CBO score is clear that the “defunding” provision in BCRA targets Planned Parenthood. It states: “CBO identified only one organization that would be affected: Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its affiliates and clinics.”
Even anti-choice groups acknowledge it violates Byrd. In their endorsement of Trumpcare, the SBA List signaled their acceptance that the “defunding” Planned Parenthood provision would be removed from reconciliation, saying, “While it is unlikely that every pro-life provision will survive the reconciliation process….”
Sen. Roy Blunt---a member of the leadership team--- said recently in Politico: “Things that are more policy than budgetary are really hard to get past the parliamentarian.”
FACT: Abortion policy is political and violates the Byrd Rule.
There is long standing precedent that provisions related to abortion policy are inappropriate for consideration in reconciliation because they are inherently political and not driven by fiscal impact.
Politico: “In the past, abortion-related provisions were often ruled out under reconciliation, the fast-track procedure the GOP is using to repeal the health law.”
CQ: “‘It is difficult for those who support abortion restrictions in reconciliation to say it’s just budgetary,’ said a source who was previously involved in parliamentary decisions.
Julie Rovner/Kaiser Health News: “In the past, policies related to abortion have been singled out as violating that rule. For example, Robert Dove, who served as parliamentarian twice under Republican control of the Senate, said in a 2010 interview that he ruled an abortion ban out of order in a 1995 reconciliation bill because “it was my view that the provision was not there in order to save money. It was there to implement social policy.”
2010 NPR interview with former Senate parliamentarian, Robert Dove: “Q: How might that "motives provision" play out, given differences in the current Senate and House bills — including whether proposed federal subsidies may be used to purchase insurance plans that cover abortion?
“Dove: In 1995 there was a provision that absolutely disallowed any federal funds for abortion. The Congressional Budget Office determined that it was going to save money. But it was my view that the provision was not there in order to save money. It was there to implement social policy. Therefore I ruled that it was not in order and it was stricken.”
HuffPost: “Because this “defunding” provision appears to be politically motivated and would have little effect on the federal budget, it likely would not survive the Byrd test. “The CBO report confirms what is already well known: Planned Parenthood is singled out for discrimination in Trumpcare for purely ideological reasons,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) told The Huffington Post. “There’s very good reason to believe that this is contrary to requirements for expedited floor consideration in the Senate.”
Even the conservative Heritage Foundation agrees, saying: “Provisions in reconciliation bills cannot be included if the primary purpose is to advance a certain policy. Rather, reconciliation is reserved for provisions included with the purpose of reducing the deficit in a way that reflects assumptions made by the budget resolution. Although addressing federal funding for groups as specific as Planned Parenthood might be worthy of action by Congress, it clearly does not meet either the test of repealing the ACA or being primarily budgetary.”
FACT: Experts and Senate aides have long predicted that the Planned Parenthood provision would violate Byrd. Today’s ruling by the Parliamentarian confirms it.
Newsweek: A senior Republican Senate aide conceded Thursday that the authors of the bill are unsure if the Planned Parenthood provision will pass muster with the Senate parliamentarian, a nonpartisan official who has the power to deny the majority's bid to consider the rules under reconciliation.
CNN: The House bill prohibits federal funding for Planned Parenthood for a year. This is a major issue for Sens. Collins and Murkowski -- a potential deal-breaker for both -- who oppose limiting funds for the group. But there's a chance it's something Senate GOP leaders may not have to grapple with at all. Many aides believe the Senate Parliamentarian will strike this provision down on Byrd Rule grounds.
Kaiser Health News/Atlantic: Outside observers say the provisions in the Senate measure that are vulnerable under this rule include those that would defund Planned Parenthood and affect the rules for private insurance plans.
The Hill: “Key provisions of the Senate’s ObamaCare repeal bill meant to curb abortion services are in serious danger of being dropped from the legislation, which could cost the bill votes from conservatives. All three provisions, according to aides and lobbyists, are expected to fall short of budgetary rules…. One provision in trouble is language defunding Planned Parenthood.”
Axios: Planned Parenthood and abortion: Collins won't support the bill's provisions to prohibit federal funding from going to insurance plans that cover abortion and to de-fund Planned Parenthood. McConnell's best hope might be that the parliamentarian axes them and Cruz accepts the decision.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.