McConnell to fast-track bill to defund Planned Parenthood

Senator Mitch McConnell has decided to bypass committee hearings on the Planned Parenthood defunding bill and bring the Rand Paul-sponsored legislation directly to the Senate floor for a vote.

Fast-tracking the bill sidelines Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, who tried to attach a PP defunding bill to highway funding legislation.  McConnell scotched that effort because he needs all the Democratic votes he can muster to pass the highway legislation.

Instead, the majority leader opted to make the defunding measure a standalone bill.

The Hill:

Republicans have renewed their opposition to Planned Parenthood after two videos were released earlier this month showing officials discussing the preservation of fetal tissue. 
But McConnell added a hurdle to that effort on Friday, when he used a tactic known as "filling the tree" to block additional amendments from being offered to the highway bill. 
Cruz, pointing to McConnell's maneuver, suggested that the Republican leader was trying to avoid a vote on cutting off federal funds to Planned Parenthood. 
"There are a host of amendments that the American people are focused on, things like defunding Planned Parenthood after the gruesome video,” Cruz said at the time. “The majority leader doesn't want to vote on that. That's actually something the American people are focused on."
The legislation being fast-tracked was introduced Friday by Paul, who said on Sunday that he considering various procedural options to try to force a vote on the legislation. 
He said during an interview with "Fox News Sunday" that one strategy is using a "discharge petition" that would require the support of at least 16 other senators. 
If Cruz had been successful in attaching his defunding amendment to the highway bill, it would have failed, and Planned Parenthood's federal funding would be safe.  Few GOP senators would have been willing to blow up the highway funding bill when a vote to defund Planned Parenthood was going to happen anyway.
The defunding amendment would have been opposed by every single Democrat, thus leading to the highway bill's defeat.  The bill is time-sensitive in that money in the highway trust fund runs out at the end of  this month. 
Cruz's diatribe against McConnell is grandstanding presidential politics.  And he's lying when he says McConnell doesn't want to defund Planned Parenthood.  He knows full well that McConnell is on board – otherwise, why give such preferential treatment to Rand Paul's defunding proposal?
Cruz is burning a lot of bridges.  It will be interesting to see if he can build any.
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