CLIFFHANGER. Mike Pence Casts Tie Breaker but Vichy Republicans May Save Planned Parenthood

Back in December, as the Obamas were packing the U-Haul, his Department of Health and Human Services issued a hastily cobbled together rule that prohibited states from turning off the spigot of public money flowing to Planned Parenthood abattoirs.

The department began the rule-making effort in September after more than a dozen Republican-dominated states moved in recent years to “defund” Planned Parenthood by blocking clinics from receiving public money. Those funds included so-called Title X money — named for the federal family-planning program — as well as Medicaid reimbursements for treating low-income patients.

But Title X family-planning money is a separate matter. Grants go directly to states and nongovernmental organizations, which then distribute money among health care providers seeking funds for such services. The new rule says that states cannot withhold money from potential recipients for any reason unrelated to their ability to provide the family-planning services.

“This rule will strengthen access to essential services like cancer screenings and contraception for some of the most vulnerable patients in this country,” Dr. Karen A. Scott, chief medical officer at the Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement.

This rule was vulnerable under the Congressional Review Act, an act that gives Congress the right to disapprove regulations, and in February the House acted to disapprove the regulation. Today the Senate has taken the first step in disapproving this rule:

Vice President Pence cast a tie-breaking Senate vote Thursday to advance legislation that would allow states to withhold federal funds from Planned Parenthood and other health care providers that perform abortions.

The Senate, after a procedural vote, will now proceed to a measure that would dismiss an Obama-era rule banning states from denying federal funds to such organizations. Pence’s vote was needed for the Senate to agree to bring the bill to the floor.

This is good news and not good news. The good news is that the bill is coming up for a vote. The bad news is that a GOP senator who voted to allow the vote to proceed could very well vote against the bill itself. The final vote is later today.

If only Mitch McConnell had a 60 senator caucus, just imagine what he could do with it…