Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, a leading fiscal hawk, said on MSNBC Friday that the GOP should "move on" from its insistence on de-funding Planned Parenthood in legislation that would continue financing the government through the rest of 2011.
Driven by conservatives, House Republicans are insisting that a rider blocking federal Title X money from going to the organization be part of any fbudget deal, and it has emerged as a major sticking point in negotiations with Senate Democrats and the White House - just hours from a government shutdown.
"I'd like to defund Planned Parenthood, but I understand that Republicans don't have complete control of the elected government," Toomey said on MSNBC's Morning Joe Friday. "I think what we should do is cut spending as much as we can, get the policy changes that we can, but move on, because there are other, bigger battles that we are fighting."
It was a leadership moment for Toomey, with at least a slight risk of blowback among his base. Toomey is a conservative on social issues as well as fiscal ones, but was challenged in the 2010 GOP primary by an antiabortion activist who questioned his commitment to that cause.
Toomey said that the Democratic-controlled Senate would never pass the Planned Parenthood rider - which he supports - and it's not worth shutting down the government instead of preparing for a crucial coming debate over the federal debt limit.
Many conservatives are outraged that tax dollars go to Planned Parenthood for family planning and women's health services because the organization is the largest abortion provider in the U.S. Federal law prohibits the use of taxpayer money to pay for abortions, and the organization says it does not use any of the Title X cash for the procedures. Opponents say, however, that it's not so easy to segregate cash and it is wrong to support an abortion provider with taxpayer money in any way.