McConnell calls on Barr to investigate Planned Parenthood loans
The Republican complaints about the Planned Parenthood loans add a new dynamic of conservative outrage around the small business rescue.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans are demanding that Attorney General William Barr investigate Planned Parenthood centers that got emergency small business loans under a government program intended to avert layoffs.
In a letter Thursday to Barr, 27 GOP senators led by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and McConnell said Planned Parenthood affiliates received about $80 million in loans under the so-called Paycheck Protection Program but should have been ineligible — a claim that Planned Parenthood disputes.
"It was not designed to give government funds to politicized, partisan abortion providers like Planned Parenthood," the senators wrote. "The funds in the program are not unlimited and were depleted once already because of high demand."
The Republican complaints about the Planned Parenthood loans add a new dynamic of conservative outrage around the small business rescue, following a public uproar over large, well-financed companies like Shake Shack and the Los Angeles Lakers receiving the aid.
The GOP lawmakers are homing in on a warning that the Small Business Administration made to Planned Parenthood representatives in recent days. In a letter seen by POLITICO, the SBA told one Planned Parenthood affiliate that it was ineligible under the Paycheck Protection Program's size standards and that its loan should be returned.
The loans are generally targeted at businesses and nonprofits with no more than 500 employees, though Congress allowed flexibility for larger employers to apply.
The SBA also has restrictions governing how affiliates of the same organization qualify for the aid. In the case of Planned Parenthood, the agency appears to have taken the position that the group's affiliates around the country are subject to enough discretion from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America that they're ineligible for the loans. A spokesperson for the SBA declined to comment on individual borrowers.
Planned Parenthood argues that the "independent" Planned Parenthood 501(c)(3) organizations that were awarded the loans complied with the rules of the program.
Jacqueline Ayers, Planned Parenthood Federation of America vice president of government relations and public policy, said the pressure was a "clear political attack on Planned Parenthood health centers and access to reproductive health care."
"It has nothing to do with Planned Parenthood health care organizations’ eligibility for Covid-19 relief efforts, and everything to do with the Trump administration using a public health crisis to advance a political agenda and distract from their own failures in protecting the American public from the spread of Covid-19," she said. "It is also just the latest salvo in the Trump administration's long history of targeting Planned Parenthood, and trying to severely limit access to sexual and reproductive health care."
The Justice Department acknowledged receiving the senators' request to investigate the matter but didn't elaborate.
"We have received and are reviewing the letter," department spokesperson Peter Carr said.