WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans on Thursday needed Vice President Mike Pence to break a tie on legislation to reverse an Obama administration rule protecting funds for Planned Parenthood and other family planning providers.
The GOP was forced to keep a procedural vote open for just over an hour after two Republicans senators, Alaska's Lisa Murkowski and Maine's Susan Collins, voted against moving ahead on the measure. During that time, the GOP got Pence to the Senate to break a 50-50 tie and cast the deciding vote.
He previously broke a tie on the nomination of Betsy DeVos to be education secretary.
A final vote on the bill is expected later Thursday, when Pence's vote likely will be needed again.
The Obama administration finalized the rule just a few weeks before President Donald Trump was inaugurated. It would bar states from denying federal family planning funds to organizations like Planned Parenthood that also perform abortions.
The rule said that a state cannot deny funding to clinics for reasons unrelated to their ability to provide basic family planning services. Although abortion is a legal medical procedure, federal dollars cannot be used to pay for it, except in restricted circumstances.
The Republican-led Congress is now trying to reverse the rule using the Congressional Review Act, which lets lawmakers undo regulations enacted in the last months of the Obama administration with a majority vote. The House passed its version of the measure in February.
Under Senate rules, the vice president can cast tie breaking votes. Pence broke his first tie on the nomination of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, when the same two Republican senators, Collins and Murkowski, voted against her. There are 52 Republicans in the Senate.
After the vote, Washington Sen. Patty Murray said Republicans "didn't listen to women across the country who made it clear that restricting women's access to the full range of reproductive care is unacceptable."
Murray is the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, who served under President Barack Obama for eight years, never cast a tie-breaking vote.