GOP senators game out how to handle Democrats’ IVF bill

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Senate Republicans plan to almost uniformly oppose a bill that provides federal protections for in vitro fertilization, hoping to quickly shut down Democrats’ efforts to paint them as enemies of reproductive rights.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is planning to bring the bill up for an initial vote on Thursday, with GOP opposition all but guaranteeing it will fail. The bill would require 60 votes to move forward, meaning it needs at least nine GOP senators to agree to advance it.

While Republicans remain adamant that they support IVF — and have their own alternative bill they’re trying to bring up Wednesday afternoon — multiple members cited concerns about Democrats’ bill trampling on religious freedoms and states rights.

“We may have a couple of our members who end up voting for it. It’s not going to move forward,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who said he’ll be voting against advancing the bill because “it’s an exercise in futility.”

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said he’d be “pretty surprised” if there were enough Republican votes to advance the bill and cited concerns over the bill constituting “a lot of changes to state law.”

Schumer’s push for a vote on the IVF legislation is his latest attempt at squeezing Republicans on tough issues ahead of the November elections. Earlier this month, Senate Democratic leadership also attempted to pass a bill protecting contraception at the federal level. Before that, it was a vote on the border package that a bipartisan group of senators negotiated earlier this year.

Both of those votes failed due to GOP opposition; Republicans said Democrats were mounting insincere efforts at political messaging.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), a member of leadership, hit back at that accusation, telling reporters Wednesday that the threat to IVF “is not hypothetical.”

“We already saw the chaos and heartbreak caused when the Alabama Supreme Court upended IVF access,” she said. “Women who were days away from appointments they had waited months for and spent thousands of dollars on had their treatment canceled and their dreams of motherhood thrown into uncertainty. … Republican efforts to dismiss this vote as fear mongering are simply not going to fly.”

Schumer maintains he is putting the bills to a vote in an effort to pass bipartisan legislation on popular issues. He has denied claims that the IVF effort is a so-called “show vote,” though Republicans were not involved in crafting the legislation at hand.

Republicans led by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Katie Britt (R-Ala.) are pushing an alternative bill that would strip federal Medicaid funding from states that ban IVF services. That legislation would still allow restrictions on how embryos are stored, implanted and disposed of. They plan to try and pass the bill unanimously on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon, according to a Britt spokesperson. The bill will almost certainly be blocked.

“I strongly support IVF,” Cruz said. “And I want that written in the law. That’s not what Schumer is doing this week when he’s playing political games.”

Duckworth, who herself had two children through IVF, excoriated the GOP version at a press conference Wednesday, saying it “would absolutely do nothing to protect access to IVF.”

“Calling your bill the IVF Protection Act without doing anything to protect IVF is despicable,” she added. “It is akin to an arsonist selling you fire insurance that doesn’t cover arson.”

Duckworth and her colleagues argued that it’s not just blanket bans that would make IVF inaccessible or push clinics to close their doors. They noted that even the Alabama ruling that led many providers in that state to halt services wasn’t a ban per-se — and would still be allowed to happen under the Cruz-Britt bill.

Alternatively, the Democratic version would both prevent states from imposing restrictions on IVF and make it more affordable, with specific provisions expanding insurance coverage for service members and veterans.

Still, Republicans risk handing Democrats an opportunity to use the vote in campaign attacks this cycle. Hawley, for one, said he wasn’t worried about playing into any messaging tactics from Democrats. And he expects more votes like the ones on IVF and contraception to continue through the election.

“I’m sure we’ll keep voting on abortion week after week, you know, right up till November,” he said.

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