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Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren confronted Kansas Republican Sen. Roger Marshall over what she called “truly despicable” anti-abortion “Crisis Pregnancy Centers.”

On Thursday, Sen. Warren gave a floor speech in support of the so-called “Stop Anti-Abortion Disinformation Act” or the “SAD Act.” in which she blasted Crisis Pregnancy Centers at length — as she has done consistently.

Following that speech, Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey engaged Marshall on the question of whether CPCs should be permitted to “promote fraud,” which led to a throwdown in which Warren and Menendez tag-teamed Marshall:

Senator Menendez: While my colleague is still here, I would like to propose the question to my colleague through the chair. Does the first amendment allow you to promote fraud? Does the first amendment allow you to promote deception? Is it great work to lie to someone about what you are providing them? Is it great work to allow someone to get your vital health information, believing that you are a health provider and then being able to use that private information?

Senator Marshall: To answer my colleague, the fraud and the deception is occurring in the abortion clinics. I can tell you story after story of patients crying in my office who went to Planned Parenthood for a pregnancy test and were scheduled for an abortion, coming to my office wondering, do I have to do this abortion? That’s where the fraud and deception is occurring. These women aren’t being told about the potential complications of these abortion procedures. They’re not being told that these abortion pills are going to cause pain and cramping and bleeding, that they could end up in the emergency room as well. They’re not told about the complications from the abortion procedures. That’s where the fraud and deception is present. You talk about this as reproductive services. You’re afraid to say the word abortion in these clinics. That’s the fraud and deception. This isn’t reproductive services. These are abortions. This is taking the life of the unborn. Thank you, Mr. President.

Senator Warren: Actually could I? Can I ask you a question then because I am a little confused, I think, by what’s just happened here. I presume deception is wrong, whoever does it. So if we just said, no deception around pregnancy services, would you be willing to support this?

Senator Marshall: Mr. President, we could never support any part of this legislation. I think the deception and fraud is occurring on the part of abortion clinics. This is a threat to our first amendment rights, and I think, like I said in my opening remarks, this is just simply unacceptable. That’s why we continue to object. Thank you.

Senator Menendez: Mr. President, if I may ask my colleague through the chair, is it right, no matter who gets the information by fraud, to give your most private health – surely as a doctor – the Senator would say that no one should give up their health information to an entity that does not preserve it under HIPAA laws. So could the Senator not join us if we limit it to fraud that ultimately has that fraud create the insecurity of HIPAA information?

Senator Marshall: Mr. President, I think this is not the place to try to rewrite legislation. Of course I’m against all fraud. I think all fraud is bad. I think that I’m all for the truth, all for protecting patients’ personal information. But I’m also here proud to say what great work that these clinics do. I’m not sure what you are even accusing them is even true. I have not witnessed that. The pregnant clinics that I have seen do great work for these folks. They truly do sit down and talk with them. They give them a hand up. They do so many great things.

I don’t know where this fraud and deception is coming about except that they’re talking to women and saying, do you realize that your baby has a heartbeat? Do you realize that your baby can feel pain at 14 weeks? Do you realize that your baby recognizes the voice of your husband right now? Do you recognize – so I think those are great things to share with patients, how wonderful life is, that we’re all wonderfully, beautifully made in the womb, that life begins at conception. I think that’s all the truth that should be shared with them. So, no, I don’t think there’s anything you could do with this legislation that could change it that I could support. And I continue to object. Thank you, and I yield.

Senator Warren: Mr. President, then could I ask through you another question and that is, if we’re not talking about the fraud part, can we at least talk about collecting health information, that any so-called crisis pregnancy center – I’m sorry, is the Senator leaving? The one who said that it’s important to protect private health care information? That at least we could agree that private health care information – I guess the Senator is just going to walk off the floor. So the question would have been, how about agreeing that anyone that collects information about a pregnancy and collects medical and personal information has to be bound by HIPAA so that that information is fully protected? That would be my question, Mr. President. But since there’s no one here to answer it on the Republican side, I guess we will have to leave it for today. Thank you.

Senator Menendez: I would like to answer the Senator’s question. That makes eminent sense that we would protect HIPAA information regardless of who is in a position to maybe have access to collecting it. And therefore, in the first instance, you shouldn’t collect it if you’re not a medical entity, but if you do, you should be ultimately bound by the same guarantees that anyone else would be guaranteed. You know, it would baffle me that particularly a medical professional, a doctor, would suggest that HIPAA information is something that we shouldn’t protect. I think that at a minimum we should all be able to agree to that.

Senator Warren: This is a reminder again why I am so honored to fight alongside Senator Menendez. I don’t think anyone should be deceived, and particularly a woman who is seeking information about termination of a pregnancy, and I don’t believe anyone’s private medical information should be shared. The idea that these crisis pregnancy centers gather information from women who believe they are giving it to a medical provider, and that information will be protected, and that that is not the case, is truly despicable. Thank you again, Senator Menendez. Thank you, Mr. President.

Watch above via C-Span.

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Dems push Biden climate, health priorities toward Senate OK

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats drove their election-year economic package toward Senate approval early Sunday, debating a measure that is less ambitious than President Joe Biden’s original domestic goals but touches deep-rooted party dreams of slowing global warming,moderating pharmaceutical costs and taxing immense corporations.

The legislation cleared its first test in the evenly divided chamber when Democrats burst past unanimous Republican opposition and voted to begin debate 51-50, thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote. The House planned to return Friday to vote on what Democrats hope will be final congressional approval.

“It will reduce inflation. It will lower prescription drug costs. It will fight climate change. It will close tax loopholes and it will reduce and reduce the deficit,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said of the package. “It will help every citizen in this country and make America a much better place.”

Republicans said the measure would undermine an economy that policymakers are struggling to keep from plummeting into recession. They said the bill’s business taxes would hurt job creation and force prices skyward, making it harder for people to cope with the nation’s worst inflation since the 1980s.

“Democrats have already robbed American families once through inflation, and now their solution is to rob American families a second time,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., argued. He said spending and tax hikes in the legislation would eliminate jobs while having insignificant impact on inflation and climate change.

Nonpartisan analysts have said the Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act would have a minor impact on surging consumer prices. The bill is barely more than one-tenth the size of Biden’s initial 10-year, $3.5 trillion rainbow of progressive dreams, and the new package abandoned universal preschool, paid family leave and expanded child care aid.

Even so, the measure gives Democrats a campaign-season showcase for action on coveted goals. It includes the largest ever federal effort on climate change — close to $400 billion — and would hand Medicare the power to negotiate pharmaceutical prices and extend expiring subsidies that help 13 million Americans afford health insurance.

Biden’s original measure collapsed after conservative Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., opposed it, saying it was too costly and would fuel inflation.

In an ordeal imposed on all budget bills like this one, the Senate descended into an hours-long “vote-a-rama” of rapid-fire amendments. Each tested Democrats’ ability to hold together a compromise negotiated by Schumer, progressives, Manchin and the inscrutable centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.

Progressive Sen. Bernie Sander, I-Vt., offered amendments to further expand the legislation’s health benefits, and they were defeated. But most proposed changes were fashioned by Republicans to unravel the bill or force Democrats into votes on dangerous political terrain.

One GOP proposal would have forced the Biden administration to continue Trump-era restrictions that cited the pandemic for reducing the flow of migrants across the Southwest border.

Earlier this year, Democrats facing tough reelections supported such an extension, forcing the party to drop its push for COVID-19 spending when Republicans conjoined the two issues. This time, with their far larger economic legislation at stake and elections approaching, Democrats rallied against the border controls.

Other GOP amendments would have required more gas and oil leasing on federal lands and blocked a renewal of a fee on oil that helps finance toxic waste cleanups. All were rejected on party-line votes. Republicans accused Democrats of being soft on border security and opening the door to higher energy and gas costs.

Before debate began Saturday, the bill’s prescription drug price curbs were diluted by the Senate’s non-partisan parliamentarian. Elizabeth MacDonough, who referees questions about the chamber’s procedures, said a provision should fall that would impose costly penalties on drugmakers whose price increases for private insurers exceed inflation.

It was the bill’s chief protection for the 180 million people with private health coverage through work or that they purchase themselves. Under special procedures that will let Democrats pass their bill by simple majority without the usual 60 vote margin, its provisions must be focused more on policy than dollar-and-cents budget changes.

But the thrust of their pharmaceutical price language remained. That included letting Medicare negotiate what it pays for drugs for its 64 million elderly recipients, penalizing manufacturers for exceeding inflation for drugs sold to Medicare and limiting beneficiaries out-of-pocket drug costs to $2,000 annually.

The bill also caps patients’ costs for insulin, the diabetes medication, at $35 monthly.

The measure’s final costs were being recalculated to reflect late changes, but overall it would raise more than $700 billion over a decade. The funding would come from a 15% minimum tax on a handful of corporations with yearly profits above $1 billion; a 1% tax on companies that repurchase their own stock, beefed up IRS tax collections and government savings from lower drug costs.

Sinema forced Democrats to drop a plan to prevent wealthy hedge fund managers from paying less than individual income tax rates for their earnings. She also joined with other Western senators to win $4 billion to combat the region’s horrific drought.

It was on the energy and environment side that Democrats’ compromise was most evident between progressives and Manchin, a champion of fossil fuels and his state’s coal industry.

Efforts fostering clean energy would be strengthened with tax credits for buying electric vehicles and manufacturing solar panels and wind turbines. There would be home energy rebates, funds for constructing factories building clean energy technology and money to promote climate-friendly farm practices and reduce pollution in minority communities.

Manchin won billions to help power plants lower carbon emissions plus language requiring more government auctions for oil drilling on federal land and waters. Party leaders also promised to push separate legislation this fall to accelerate permits for energy projects, which Manchin wants to include a nearly completed natural gas pipeline in his state.

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