WASHINGTON – Alabama’s senators split votes on a proposal to defund Planned Parenthood, with Republican Richard Shelby voting for a measure to remove the group from a budget bill and Democrat Doug Jones voting to retain funding.
The proposal failed. However, the overall catchall funding bill passed with support of both of the state’s senators.
Here are their votes on major issues in the week ending Aug. 24. The House was in recess.
Defunding Planned Parenthood
By a vote of 45 for and 48 against, the Senate on Aug. 23 did not advance an amendment that would delete $400 million in Planned Parenthood funding from a bill (HR 6157, below) providing fiscal 2019 appropriations for the departments of Defense, Education, Labor and Health and Human Services. Abortions account for about 3 percent of the reproductive-care services delivered by Planned Parenthood at its 600 nationwide clinics. They are not federally funded, in keeping with a 1976 law that prohibits the use of taxpayer money to pay for abortions except in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother.
Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, said: “The government, with a wink and a nod, tells us that Planned Parenthood doesn’t spend the money on abortions, but everybody knows that the taxpayer is really cross-subsidizing Planned Parenthood’s abortion mills.”
Richard Durbin, D-Illinois, said that by law, “No federal funds may be spent for the performance of abortion procedures. … The position of Planned Parenthood is to counsel families so they can control the number of children they have and avoid unplanned pregnancies and the likelihood of abortion procedures to follow.”
A yes vote was to remove Planned Parenthood funding from the bill.
Voting yes: Richard Shelby, R
Voting no: Doug Jones, D
$854 Billion Spending Bill for 2019
Voting 85 for and seven against, the Senate on Aug. 23 approved an $854 billion catchall appropriations bill (HR 6157) that would provide $675 billion for the Department of Defense, $90.1 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services, $71.4 billion for the Department of Education, $12.1 billion for the Department of Labor and nearly $6 billion for other agencies and programs in fiscal 2019. The military outlay, accounting for nearly 70 percent of the government’s discretionary spending, would fund a 2.6 percent pay raise for those in uniform while providing $68.1 billion for combat operations abroad and $57 billion-plus for active-duty, family and retiree health care. The bill also would appropriate $3.7 billion for the prevention and treatment of opioid addiction; $445 million for charter schools; another $445 million for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and $95 million in grants to help K-12 schools prevent and recover from classroom shootings.
Richard Durbin, D-Illinois, voted for the bill but said America’s military budget is nearly 10 times that of Russia’s $78 billion and four times larger than China’s $175 billion. He called it “baffling…that we spend so much more than our major adversaries in the world” yet “are falling behind in the development of key technologies – technologies like satellites, artificial intelligence, hypersonic missiles and quantum computing.”
Of the seven senators who voted against the bill, the only one who spoke against it was Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, who objected to its inclusion of funds for Planned Parenthood (issue above).
A yes vote was to send the bill to conference with the House. Alabama
Voting yes: Shelby, Jones
Voting no: None
Suicide prevention hotline
Voting 95 for and none against, the Senate on Aug. 21 adopted an amendment to HR 6157 (above) that would increase the 2019 budget for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline by $2.8 million, or about 4 percent. Funded by all levels of government and other sources, the hotline is a nationwide network of crisis centers that provides 24/7 confidential support to persons in emotional distress.
John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, said the hotline has “answered more than 10 million calls from people in distress, and they estimate that over the next four years, they will take 12 million calls. We underfund them. It is embarrassing how much we underfund them.”
No senator spoke against the amendment.
A yes vote backed the spending increase.
Voting yes: Shelby, Jones.
Voting no: None.