Lindsey Graham Continues to Stumble on Defunding Planned Parenthood

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) (photo credit: Kai Mörk, CC BY 3.0 DE)
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) (photo credit: Kai Mörk, CC BY 3.0 DE)

Lindsey Graham has been a strong pro-life voice in the Senate as the chief sponsor of the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. But his strong leadership on the 20-week abortion ban hasn’t translated to the current Planned Parenthood defunding battle.

First, Graham skipped the Senate vote on defunding Planned Parenthood earlier this week to attend to his presidential aspirations at a forum in New Hampshire. While his vote wouldn’t have pushed the measure to the required 60, his choice shows a lot of Washington cynicism — the bill isn’t going to pass, so I’ll go run for president instead of voting, also known as doing my job. Graham’s fellow senators and presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio chose to stay in Washington and cast their votes to defund Planned Parenthood and appeared at the forum via satellite. Why wouldn’t Lindsey Graham do the same?

Second, Graham is falling for the media bait that will force the defunding narrative against the Republicans if they can’t get their rhetoric straight. Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt hosted Graham on Monday and asked if he was willing to shut the government down to defund Planned Parenthood. Hewitt was giving Graham a chance to get his strategy straight before the real battle comes. Paul, Rubio, and most recently Cruz have been turning this question back and asking if the Democrats prefer to shut down the government to preserve funding of Planned Parenthood’s barbarity. Graham’s response? “I am not going to agree to shut the government down.” When asked if he would push a bill to fund the government except for Planned Parenthood, Graham responded, “We’ll give it a whirl.”

Washington cynicism 2, doing the right thing 0.

Get your message right, Senator. Republicans should be going on offense against the Democrats’ pro-Planned Parenthood extremism. The media will try to say the Republicans are so extreme that they’d shut down the government over a fraction of the budget going towards Planned Parenthood. It’s time Republicans got media savvy and made the narrative into one about the Democrats’ devotion to such a barbaric and potentially criminal organization.

Here is the transcript from Graham’s interview with Hewitt:

HUGH HEWITT: Now let me ask you about a couple of other things. The Planned Parenthood videos are gruesome, horrific, they verge on, if not indeed have crossed over into infanticide. And a lot of Republicans, including me, want to shut the government down over the defunding of Planned Parenthood. I would pass a CR with the Defense Appropriations, everything the way it is except the plus up, except the Planned Parenthood, and stand down that line all day. What’s Lindsey Graham say?

LINDSEY GRAHAM: If I were president of the United States, I would never submit a budget with one penny of money for Planned Parenthood. I would take the money and put it truly in programs that help women without harvesting unborn baby organs. But I am not going to agree to shut the government down, because I’ve never seen so many threats to our homeland as I do today. We need the FBI, the CIA, the NSA and all other vital intelligence services up and running.

HEWITT: Can’t you pass all of that and put it on the President, or take it to the Senate and say it’s all here except Planned Parenthood, pass it?

GRAHAM: Yeah, you can take a vote. We’ll give it a whirl. But I don’t think it passes. I’ll be glad to try.

HEWITT: If it requires breaking the filibuster rule, would you pass it over the filibuster rule?

GRAHAM: Absolutely not.

HEWITT: You and I have…

GRAHAM: No way in hell.

HEWITT: Lindsey Graham, sometimes you drive me crazy. Here I am, I’m giving you a cheat sheet.

GRAHAM: Well, too bad. I mean, I think that’s a really, a guy who I admire a lot, I think that’s the worst idea you’ve come up with in a while. One, he’s going to veto it. You need to get 67 votes. You’re taking off the table a tool that I think has been good for the country as a whole. So no, I don’t agree with you.

Thomas Valentine is a researcher for APIA and a junior at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.