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Iowa Senators mum on shutdown strategy

BY BRENT GRIFFITHS | AUGUST 05, 2015 5:00 AM

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A day after U.S. Senate Democrats blocked defunding Planned Parenthood, Iowa Republicans were mum on just how far their party might go in forcing the issue.

The discussion comes on the heels of suggestions from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and real-estate titan Donald Trump that the GOP should leave all options on the table when it comes to the organization’s taxpayer funding — including possibly another government shutdown.

A fight over Obamacare in 2013 led to a 16-day shutdown.

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, was the face of the Senate bill, which would have stripped more than $500 million from Planned Parenthood. But Democrats used a procedural hurdle to block the bill, forcing it to have 60 votes to pass — the legislation failed after garnering only 53.

When asked whether a future strategy could include a shutdown, through a spokeswoman, Ernst demurred. Instead, Iowa’s junior senator said, her focus is on investigating the claims of videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal-tissue donations and how the organization goes about obtaining them.

“I will continue to press the Department of Health and Human Services to cooperate with all current and future investigations,” Ernst said in a statement released on Monday. “I remain committed to getting these answers, because protecting our most vulnerable is an important measure of any society.”

However, Iowa’s lone Democrat in Congress derided any efforts that could involve a shutdown.

“It is outrageous that Sen. Cruz and his fellow extreme, tea-party colleagues are threatening to shut down the federal government and eliminate funding for basic health-care services such as annual check-ups and cancer screenings. This is beyond the height of irresponsibility,” Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, said in a statement to The Daily Iowan .

Like Ernst, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, preferred to focus on investigations into the videos. Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced an inquiry into the latest video released on Tuesday. His efforts follow previous requests to Planned Parenthood for the organization and its affiliates’ fetal-tissue-collection policies.

Under federal law, it is illegal to buy or sell human body parts. It is also illegal for an abortion provider to alter its methods solely for the purpose obtaining more tissue.

Five videos have been released by the Center for Medical Progress, a group that says it is “concerned about bioethical issues.” Based in Irvine, California, the videos released by the organization feature hidden-camera footage obtained during interviews with Planned Parenthood officials.

In the latest video, released on Tuesday, two of the center’s investigators discuss fetal tissue donated from abortions conducted the same day at a Texas Planned Parenthood facility.

There are numerous times throughout the 15-minute video when the conversation is abruptly cut off and/or the background of the video changes. This could possibly suggest later editing.

Executive Vice President of Planned Parenthood Dawn Laguens said the most recent video was made by “extremists who oppose Planned Parenthood’s mission and services” employing outrageous and false claims. The videos, she said, are intended to “shock and deceive the public.”

Reaction to the videos began in the conservative press but quickly streamed into public and prepared statements by GOP presidential hopefuls and elected officials. Many of the former and current governors in the race have emphasized their previous efforts to defund Planned Parenthood in their respective states.

Over the years, Planned Parenthood has been a target of Republican ire, but the videos have made it easier for officials to target the organization, said Christopher Larimer, a University of Northern Iowa associate professor of political science.

“[The videos] provide a pretty strong discussion rather than just hearing Republicans talking about it,” he said. “They provide an image that is not easy to forget.”


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