The Senate blocked a Republican drive today to terminate federal funds for Planned Parenthood, setting the stage for the GOP to try again this fall amid higher stakes—a potential government shutdown that could echo into next year's presidential and congressional elections. The derailed legislation was the Republican response to videos, recorded secretly by anti-abortion activists, showing Planned Parenthood officials dispassionately discussing how they sometimes provide medical researchers with tissue from aborted fetuses. Those videos have led conservatives to accuse the group of illegally selling the organs for profit—strongly denied by Planned Parenthood—and inserted abortion and women's health into the mix of issues to be argued in the 2016 campaign.
Today's mostly party-line vote was 53-46 to halt Democratic delays aimed at derailing the bill, seven short of the 60 votes the Republicans needed. Even so, the GOP is hoping to reap political gains because the videos have ignited the party's core conservative, anti-abortion voters. The fight is already creating heated talking points for Republican presidential candidates, who convene Thursday for their first debate of the 2016 campaign. Several of them, including Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky, are calling for Congress to end Planned Parenthood's federal payments. Democrats' were largely muted when the videos were first distributed, but their defense of Planned Parenthood has grown more robust in recent days. Click for more on today's vote. (Read more Planned Parenthood stories.)