POLITICS

Sen. Ted Cruz speaks out against Planned Parenthood, vows to defund it through bill

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in Washington, Tuesday, July 21, 2015.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in Washington, Tuesday, July 21, 2015.  (ap)

Both Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have vowed to defund Planned Parenthood as a second undercover video unleashed a new storm of controversy surrounding the non-profit organization.

In addition to an amendment that would fully repeal President Obama's Affordable Care Act, Cruz's office said on Tuesday that the Texas lawmaker is planning to file an amendment on a six-year highway and transit bill to eliminate all federal funding for the non-profit, which provides reproductive health services that include abortion.

Cruz joined his fellow senator and GOP presidential candidate, Rand Paul of Kentucky, in using the much-discussed highway bill as a way to attempt to defund Planned Parenthood. Paul said last week that he will "use all legislative vehicles at his disposal" to force a vote this week but has not released details of his plan.

Republican and Democratic negotiators in the Senate announced an agreement Tuesday on the highway bill subject to approval by rank-and-file lawmakers.

However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he and Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, who led the Democratic negotiations, were able to agree only on enough funds to pay for transportation programs for the first three years of the bill, leaving open how the remaining three years will be financed.

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"This is a six-year highway authorization that will allow planning for important long-term projects around the country, and the bill provides three years of guaranteed funding for the Highway Trust Fund," McConnell said. "Senators from both parties know that a long-term highway bill is in the best interest of our country."

While Sen. Rubio has not made any pronouncements about using the highway bill to defund Planned Parenthood – he has already voted before to defund it - the Florida lawmaker has spoken out about his disgust for the organization.

"I am sickened by the complete disregard for innocent unborn life evident at Planned Parenthood," Rubio told Politico. "I'm proud that one of my first actions in the Senate was voting to defund this organization."

Planned Parenthood told Congress Monday that a secretly recorded video released last week by an anti-abortion group is fraudulent and part of a years-long pattern of illegal harassment aimed at prohibiting abortion.

In a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Planned Parenthood said it fell victim to a fake company called Biomax Procurement Services that posed as a buyer of human tissue. It was actually created by David Daleiden, an official of the group that released the video, and was engaged in "a campaign of corporate espionage" targeting Planned Parenthood, the letter said.

"A group of extremists who have intimidated women and doctors for years — in their agenda to ban abortion completely — are not 'documenting' misdeeds; they are trying to create them, quite unsuccessfully," Planned Parenthood wrote to lawmakers.

In a show of defiance — at least for now — Planned Parenthood also told the House committee that it has not yet decided whether it will honor lawmakers' request for a briefing by Dr. Deborah Nucatola, who speaks at length in the video about obtaining fetal tissue for research. Nucatola is the organization's senior director of medical services.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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