Presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio sparred Friday over the latter’s commitment to defunding Planned Parenthood last fall.
“Marco Rubio has spoken out about Planned Parenthood. But when these videos came out I stood with millions of Americans calling on Republican leadership to use the power of Congress to defund Planned Parenthood and to cut off the money. And Marco stood up and said: ‘No, we shouldn’t,” Cruz told the crowd at the Faith and Family Forum in South Carolina. “We could have defunded Planned Parenthood in the wake of those videos but too many Republicans in Washington, especially leadership, were afraid to stand and fight.”
In response, Rubio spokesman Jahan Wilcox insisted that “Marco Rubio has always voted with Tim Scott and Joni Ernst to defund Planned Parenthood and anything to the contrary is false,” lamenting that “Senator Cruz and his team will say or do anything to win an election.” The National Right to Life Committee and pro-life former Senator Rick Santorum also responded by vouching for Rubio’s commitment to defunding Planned Parenthood.
“Marco Rubio voted to defund Planned Parenthood before Ted Cruz ever got to the U.S. Senate,” said Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life. “Since Ted Cruz joined the U.S. Senate, both he and Sen. Rubio have voted the same on every roll call that National Right to Life regards as pertinent to defunding Planned Parenthood.”
However, while Rubio has consistently spoken out against Planned Parenthood and voted for bills to defund the organization, his defenders didn’t address that Cruz was specifically referring to Rubio’s unwillingness to go as far as oppose any government appropriations that contained Planned Parenthood funding, known at the time as the shutdown strategy. Cruz was a leading advocate of that strategy, which most Senate Republicans opposed.
Rubio declined to endorse the strategy during the September GOP debate coinciding with the congressional battle. He did subsequently argue that Barack Obama would be to blame for any ensuing government shutdown rather than pro-life Republicans, but ultimately, the Hill reports, “Rubio refused to back Cruz’s plan to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood funding during budget deliberations last year.” In the end, Rubio skipped the Senate cloture vote on whether to fund the government with Planned Parenthood appropriations included. Cruz voted no, as did former presidential candidate Rand Paul. The measure ended up passing anyways 77 to 19.