What Does Heidi Heitkamp's Vote On Defunding Planned Parenthood Tell Us About Her Political Future?

Today a bill to remove federal funding from Planned Parenthood received majority, bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate but not the 60 votes required to invoke cloture and end a filibuster (see the roll call). Among those voting against cloture was North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp, something that wasn’t news to SAB readers.

What I’m wondering is what Heitkamp’s vote on this divisive issue tells us about what she’s planning for the 2016 election cycle. Heitkamp’s current term in the Senate isn’t up until the 2018 cycle, but it’s well known she’s been considering a run for governor in 2016.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]My guess is that Heitkamp expects Dalrymple to run again, and that she’s decided she isn’t running for anything in 2016, and thus she’s free to keep the federal trough open for Planned Parenthood.[/mks_pullquote]

Even though a pro-life constitutional amendment put on the statewide ballot was defeated in 2014, it would be hard for anyone to argue that the state’s views on abortion line up with Planned Parenthood’s efforts to sell dead baby parts. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin – another red state Democrat often forced to walk the same perilous ideological tightrope as Heitkamp – voted with Republicans to defund Planned Parenthood as did Indiana Democrat Joe Donnelly.

Neither of those men are up for re-election to the Senate seats until 2018, but they are in a position where being perceived as supporting Planned Parenthood’s extreme position on abortion could be perilous.

Heitkamp is more cavalier.

Does that mean she’s not planning on running in 2016? Or that she’s confident this vote won’t be sufficiently damaging?

In related news, Republicans I’ve spoken to recently tell me that Governor Jack Dalrymple expected to run for another term and will likely be making an announcement within the next six weeks. It’s hard to imagine that Heitkamp, who won her Senate seat by a margin of less than 1 percent of the vote, would think that taking on a relatively popular incumbent would be a good thing to gamble her U.S. Senate seat on.

My guess is that Heitkamp expects Dalrymple to run again, and that she’s decided she isn’t running for anything in 2016, and thus she’s free to keep the federal trough open for Planned Parenthood.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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