Rep. Mike Pence won adoption of an amendment to the continuing resolution that would bar all federal funding for Planned Parenthood, arguing that taxpayers should not subsidize the "largest abortion provider in America."
The Indiana lawmaker has been pushing to limit federal money for groups that provide abortions since 2007, when he first introduced legislation to bar federal funds under Title X of the Public Health Service Act, which provides health care services to low-income women, for any entity that performs abortions.
Flake, who plans to run for retiring GOP Sen. Jon Kyl's seat, is a fiscal conservative and ardent anti-earmark crusader who frequently pushes for amendments to spending bills. He offered a handful of amendments to the stopgap funding measure, including a proposal to zero out funding for the National Drug Intelligence Center, a pet project of the late Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.). Flake won a rare victory with adoption of that amendment, which garnered the support of 45 Democrats in the addition to the vast majority of Republicans.
Flake, who announced his candidacy Feb. 14, disputed the notion that his decision to offer the amendments was fueled by his Senate bid.
"Most of these were drafted before," he said. "We've been meeting on these amendments long before Jon Kyl announced his retirement. It's the same amendments I've offered typically under an open rule before."
But the Senate aspirant acknowledged that his proposals would give him a record to point to on the campaign trail.
"That just goes with the territory," he said. "You have a record here, for good or for ill, and that's what people are going to be focused on. The reality is — if you're running for a Senate office, or governorship, or whatever else — you don't have time to be at home running across the state, so people have to judge you on your record here."
Rep. Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.) has announced a bid to replace retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman, an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats. But Murphy did not offer any amendments to the continuing resolution.
Asked why he didn't seize the opportunity to offer an amendment, Murphy said, "I'm not going to change my style just because I'm running for different office."
"I'm proud of the fact that I'm not a show horse, and when I offer amendments or legislation, it's for substantive reasons and not for show," Murphy said.
But Murphy also said he plans to highlight his House voting record in his upcoming campaign.
"Running statewide as a Member of Congress is mostly a strength, but it can also be a liability," he said. "I have a very public and open and sometimes controversial record, and I'm willing to defend it back home. ... I have a strong record of fighting for Democratic principles and being elected in a Republican-leaning district, and, ultimately, I think that will be a strong selling point in Connecticut.
Rep. Robert Andrews said there was nothing wrong with GOP Members using the amendment process to strengthen their voting records with an eye toward future campaigns.
"In fairness, I think every Member is always looking to do that in some way, and there's nothing wrong with that," the New Jersey Democrat said. "Part of what we run on is our records as public servants, so I commend anyone who tries to do that."
But Eric Schultz, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, accused Flake and Rehberg of "pandering to the extremists in their party" with their amendments. He said the approach would backfire.
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