MURKOWSKI, COLLINS REJECT HOUSE GOP FAMILY PLANNING CUTS…. With House Republicans crusading against family planning funds, the support of a couple of Senate Republicans is most welcome.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has come out in opposition to the House’s attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, making her the first Republican senator to specifically support the beleaguered organization.

“I believe Planned Parenthood provides vital services to those in need and disagree with their funding cuts in the bill,” Murkowski wrote in a letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Vice Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.). “I ask you to consider these programs going forward to determine if there is room for allowing continued funding.”

Murkowski’s move follows that of Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who last week came out against the House vote to defund Title X, the only federal program dedicated to reproductive health issues.

“Sen. Collins is a longtime supporter of the Title X family planning program, and she believes the House’s decision to completely eliminate the funding is unwise,” Collins spokesman Kevin Kelley said. “The program has successfully reduced the number of unplanned pregnancies, therefore helping to reduce health care costs.”

Both Murkowski and Collins are right, and their support for family planning funds, in the face of sharp opposition from members of their own party, may even help make a difference as budget fights continue.

But it’s also worth pausing to note that the House GOP spending bill — the one including brutal domestic spending cuts — eliminated every penny of federal funding for Title X and Planned Parenthood, and Murkowski and Collins just voted in support of the House Republican proposal.

They’re clearly on the correct side of this debate, but that makes their vote in support of H.R. 1 that much harder to defend. The House bill would deny family planning and contraception to Americans who need the aid. Murkowski and Collins knew the legislation would fail, but they voted for it anyway, basically because their party told them to.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.