Updated 4:44 p.m. | Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., announced Monday that he’ll join Republicans in the evening to bar funding for Planned Parenthood.
While the vote is still expected to fall short of the 60 votes needed to advance, Manchin splits what has been a largely unified Democratic front, and comes the same day Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton issued a strong defense of the group and two moderate Republicans offered a more targeted defunding proposal. “Like many West Virginians, I am very troubled by the callous behavior of Planned Parenthood staff in recently released videos, which casually discuss the sale, possibly for profit, of fetal tissue after an abortion,” Manchin said. “Until these allegations have been answered and resolved, I do not believe that taxpayer money should be used to fund this organization; instead those funds should be sent to other health care providers.”
The bill the Senate will vote on Monday night would bar federal funding of Planned Parenthood permanently, yet Manchin’s comments leave room for his possible support in the future, depending on the findings of an investigation into the nature of the harvesting and sale of fetal body parts following a series of undercover videos taken by an anti-abortion group.
Manchin’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., viewed as a possible swing vote, announced on Monday he’ll vote against the measure. Casey said in a statement that any Planned Parenthood officials found of any wrongdoing should be held accountable.
While federal funding for abortion in most cases is already barred by what’s known as the Hyde Amendment, the position Planned Parenthood opponents, largely Republicans, can be summarized by one senator’s floor comments earlier on Monday.
“The question is, do we want taxpayer dollars to continue to support an organization that treats human body parts like a product on the shelves of a store,” asked Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind.
Two Republicans offered a more targeted defunding bill.
Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Mark S. Kirk of Illinois would only bar federal funding for Planned Parenthood affiliates or subsidiaries that receive compensation for engaging in the sale and procurement of fetal organs and tissue.
On the floor, Collins highlighted a need for an investigation.
The Collins/Kirk amendment could only be considered if the original bill achieves cloture, which is unlikely to happen. Kirk is one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents up for re-election in 2016.
Clinton, meanwhile, unequivocally backed the group in a two-minute video.