Two Republican presidential contenders failed to show up for a crucial U.S. Senate vote that could have derailed budget funding for Planned Parenthood.
Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) were no shows Sept. 28 for the vote on cloture, which limits further debate on the budget bill. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) can now move his Continuing Resolution ahead. That resolution would extend funding the government until Dec. 11.
The cloture vote was 77-19. Invoking cloture requires 60 votes, so if 41 senators had voted against cloture, there could have been ongoing debate and filibuster. That could have pushed the budget past important deadlines and shut the government down. Some, like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), said they would seek a government shutdown if the $500 million in funding for the non-profit organization stayed in the budget. Cruz and another Republican presidential hopeful, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) voted “no” to cloture.
Planned Parenthood is facing scrutiny in a congressional investigation regarding selling fetal organs from abortions. The organization was the target in an undercover investigation from the Center of Medical Progress where Planned Parenthood officials and others openly talked about pricing parts from late-term babies.
With a cloture vote passing by a wide margin of vote, Rubio and Graham would not have made much of a difference in the final count. Critics argue that Rubio could have influenced other Republicans to add to the conservative ballots.
Rubio is now under fire from political pundits for not taking a stand at all, stating the absence was political in that he can claim a pro-life stance without taking a controversial stand that could end with a government shutdown. The Florida senator said Democrats are the real culprits in government shutdown threats. “No one can tell me that Planned Parenthood–funding Planned Parenthood as an organization is such a high priority that we have to do it, otherwise we won’t fund government,” he said. “That’s absurd.”
Rubio has also faced criticism from GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump regarding his ongoing absenteeism from the Senate. Trump said Rubio has the worst attendance record of all.
“That means he’s either a not hard worker or he’s maybe even something worse than that. But what you’re supposed to do if you’re elected, you’re supposed to be voting. There’s no excuses for that,” Trump said in a recent interview.
Graham, who has advocated a pro-life stance, skipped the vote to campaign. He said he wants to defund Planned Parenthood, but is against a government shutdown. Graham said he wouldn’t go back to Washington, D.C. to vote for a shutdown, so he opted not to go at all.
“Anybody that wants to shut down the government is shutting down the ability to stop the next attack, which I think is coming if we don’t do something differently,” he said.
The South Carolina senator said he thinks the federal government should stop funding the abortion provider given new information shown in the secretly taped videos.
“Let me just be clear about me and Planned Parenthood. If I were president, I would never submit a budget with one dime for Planned Parenthood,” Graham said.
A continuing resolution that would have temporarily funded the government while freezing Planned Parenthood funding for one year failed to pass the Senate on Sept. 24 in a 47-53 vote. Sixty votes would have pushed the resolution through, but eight Republicans sided with Democrats out of fear such a move would have ended with a government shutdown in a stalemate with Democrats. President Barack Obama said he would veto any measure that didn’t include Planned Parenthood funding.