Sen. Lisa Murkowski has assured an Alaska constituent that she’s committed to preserving Planned Parenthood funding as part of a health care bill — the strongest line she’s drawn yet over one of the most controversial elements of the Obamacare repeal effort.
"I am committed to ensuring that important provisions of the ACA, such as covering those with pre-existing conditions, continued support for Medicaid expansion, coverage for dependents and no lifetime limits, and funding for Planned Parenthood remain intact," Murkowski wrote in the constituent letter obtained by POLITICO.
Murkowski is one of the most important swing votes in the health care debate, making her position on Planned Parenthood potentially pivotal to the shape of the final bill. Most Republicans, as well as anti-abortion groups, want the organization defunded as part of the health bill.
In the past, Murkowski has said publicly that she doesn’t think Planned Parenthood defunding should be part of the repeal effort. But she hasn’t said that she would automatically vote against a bill that included it.
When asked about the letter this week, Murkowski repeated that she wouldn’t make a promise on a bill she hasn’t seen. Instead, she said she is a "strong proponent [of Planned Parenthood] and I will fight to keep the funding in. I can’t make promises or representations on bills that I don’t know the contents of. I guess I’d have to see. But I have been solid on Planned Parenthood. It’s all about access."
Murkowski told POLITICO that she supports funding the organization "because what that does is it provides greater access for more women, more men and in my state, anything that you do to reduce access is a bad thing."
Murkowski has emerged as one of the greatest skeptics of the Obamacare repeal bill, publicly chastising the effort as too secretive and warning against the defunding provision. Senate Republican leaders need 52 of the group’s 50 members to support the legislation to get it through the Senate.
Murkowski’s voting record on Planned Parenthood funding has shifted over time. She has repeatedly pleased and angered the anti-abortion and pro-abortion rights groups in Washington and Alaska.
Earlier this year, she joined Democrats, as well as fellow Republican moderate Sen. Susan Collins, to oppose an effort to make it easier for states to defund the program.
In 2015, shortly after a series of sting videos were released accusing the organization of selling body parts, she voted in support of a procedural measure to allow defunding of Planned Parenthood. She later said she cast the vote only to offer an amendment that would have required a Justice Department investigation before the group was actually defunded.
She also supported the 2015 Republican Obamacare repeal bill, which defunded Planned Parenthood. Murkowski and Collins supported an unsuccessful amendment to allow funding. But Republicans knew the measure would be vetoed by former President Barack Obama.