April 12, 2017
The biggest prize of last November is getting settled in his Supreme Court office. But Justice Neil Gorsuch was only part of the GOP's payoff for electing Donald Trump. With Antonin Scalia's replacement firmly in place, conservatives are turning up the heat on phase two: defunding Planned Parenthood.
Unlike years past, Republicans finally have the pieces in place to strip away most of the taxpayer funding from the abortion behemoth. The prospects looked bleak late last month when the American Health Care Act (AHCA) unraveled in the House, but after scrapping some of the objectionable parts of that bill, even some of the earlier measure's fiercest critics -- like House Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) -- think the chamber is closer than ever to a deal. According to Meadows, he and leadership are in "final negotiations" on an Obamacare replacement plan that would put a dagger in the heart of Planned Parenthood's taxpayer dollars. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer confirmed those reports Tuesday, telling reporters, "We are getting closer and closer every day" to a deal on health care, and the Freedom Caucus's ideas "are very helpful."
Of course, as everyone knows -- including Spicer -- the tricky part will be "figuring out whether or not those attract additional votes -- gain additional support -- and don't detract" by scaring off some Republican moderates. What hasn't scared off Republicans is the pro-life language. The best thing either piece of legislation had going for it was the portion that takes aim at the forced partnership between taxpayers and the nation's biggest abortion business. In fact, as Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) told a rowdy town hall this week in Oklahoma, that was the reason he even considered voting for the AHCA last month.
When a group of abortion activists stood up and started booing (while others cheered), Bridenstine repeated himself and then asked, "Did you know it defunded Planned Parenthood?" The Tulsa World reports that later, responding to another question, "Bridenstine said he favored giving the federal money now going to Planned Parenthood to clinics such as Tulsa's Morton Health Center 'because they don't do abortions. They don't kill babies.'" (Or joke about hitting the gym to have the strength to do it, as Cecile Richards's group was caught saying.)
Congressman Bridenstine is just one example of how potent the pro-life agenda has become. Even when a bill is as unpopular as the AHCA, defunding Planned Parenthood is a compelling enough concept to win over members. In this case, severing ties with the group is actually sweetening the deal for most conservatives. In all candor, the life issue has helped to keep conservatives at the table on health care when many were tempted to walk away.
As I told Time magazine, Donald Trump won the election by tapping into pro-lifers' priorities like the Supreme Court and Planned Parenthood. It's also how we turned a personality-driven election into a policy election. So, if Republicans want to keep the majority and have the ability to lead the country, they have to follow through on those promises. And based on the assurances I've gotten about the latest plan, they're ready to.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.