Democrats successfully blocked the Senate from taking up a bill to bar abortions after 20 weeks, a vote that helps lay the groundwork for keeping the government's doors open.
The emotional debate on the "pain-capable" anti-abortion legislation championed by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., went as one would expect, but the calculus for Republicans on the next step is more complicated. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is viewed as likely to set up procedural votes Thursday on a stopgap government funding resolution that would not be able to advance if it includes a rider against funding for Planned Parenthood favored by the likes of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
Ultimately, 54 senators voted to limit debate on taking up the House version of Graham's bill, short of the 60 required under the rules.
"I'm going to make sure the government doesn't shut down. If you can see me a pathway forward where we have the votes to defund Planned Parenthood, I will be with you," Graham said. "You've got to prove to me that the president, we can override his veto, because he said he would. I really believe that the only way we're going to defund Planned Parenthood is elect someone like Lindsey Graham."
"I am trying to advance a cause that I think most Americans would appreciate, and that is saving children from excruciating pain," Graham said of the 20-week prohibition, which does include medical and rape/incest exemptions.
Among the anti-abortion advocates appearing with Graham and Republican Sens. Steve Daines of Montana and James Lankford of Oklahoma was Ovide Lamontagne, the general counsel of Americans United for Life. Lamontagne has run for statewide office in New Hampshire several times, twice winning the GOP nomination for governor and also running in the 2010 primary against Kelly Ayotte for Senate.
When asked about a letter that Ayotte sent to Cruz calling for him to outline how the Senate could ever get 60 or 67 votes to block federal funding of Planned Parenthood, Lamontagne said he would "leave it to the politicians" to figure out the tactical maneuvers.
"Our organization believes that we should take every step possible that's viable to defund Planned Parenthood," Lamontagne said
However, the former competitor offered supportive words for Ayotte, who faces a hotly-contested re-election bid in 2016.
"Kelly Ayotte is my U.S. senator, and I'm proud to call her my U.S. senator, and I hope — I wish her the best of luck in her upcoming re-election," Lamontagne said.
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