Four years after GOP Senate candidates stumbled over reproductive rights, the thorny issue is once again front and center as Congress kicks off 2016 with a vote to strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood in retaliation for its abortion practices.
The House is expected to easily approve a bill Wednesday that punished the country’s biggest abortion provider, and repeals some of the key parts of Obamacare. President Obama has said he’ll veto the legislation, and there’s little chance of Republicans overriding him, but the showdown is still expected to rally conservatives and set the tone for the election year.
The effort to repeal Obamacare is likely to steal most of the headlines, but all sides say a successful repeal will need to be coupled with a replacement — something leaders are years overdue in writing.
Instead, it’s the strike at Planned Parenthood that could be the bigger statement out of Wednesday’s vote, demonstrating how swiftly Republicans could win a pro-life war they’ve been waging for several years if they get one of their own into the White House.
“Taking that money away sends a strong message about why the election is important and what Republicans could do if they had full control of government,” said Darrell West, director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution. “That vote is a way to tell conservative activists that there is a major difference between the two parties and they need to work hard to put Republicans in a position to deliver on its campaign promises.”