Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared today that “if you shut down the government, you will not defund Planned Parenthood — it will not happen.”
There are seven working days left to pass a spending bill before the government would go into shutdown. The rest of the week in the upper chamber is focused on the Iran deal.
“Well, there’re not many fans of Planned Parenthood in my conference. Certainly not me. We’ve all been appalled by the videos we’ve seen,” McConnell told reporters outside of a closed policy luncheon.
“The question is how to achieve the goal” of defunding Planned Parenthood, he said.
“I’m told about $28 million of the roughly $500 million they get comes from appropriated accounts, so it wouldn’t succeed,” McConnell said. “We don’t — are not going to engage in exercises in futility. We’ve already voted one time in the Senate to try to defund Planned Parenthood. We know the president wouldn’t sign such a bill. So it will not succeed.”
“And so I’m not in favor of exercises in futility. We need to deal with the world that we have. We have a president who deeply supports Planned Parenthood and will not sign a bill that defunds it.”
And even Obama did sign such a bill, “it wouldn’t work,” the majority leader argued, “because this would only take a small portion of the funds away from Planned Parenthood. Most of it is in entitlement that they get largely through Medicaid.”
McConnell cited National Right to Life president Carol Tobias, who said while the organization has not taken a position on a shutdown she doesn’t believe it’s a working strategy.
“Quite frankly, I think Planned Parenthood is a vile organization, and I resent the fact that they get any tax money,” Tobias said. “But realistically, with President Obama in the White House holding that veto pen, I don’t know that any government shutdown could accomplish what we want. What we have to do is get a new pro-life president in, and we’d have a much better chance of actually taking away their money.”
Obama, she added, “would be willing to shut down the government, take money away from the military, take money away from the national parks, put all of the federal employees on leave — he would do anything and everything to keep that money flowing to Planned Parenthood.”
“So the cold, hard reality for those of us who don’t support Planned Parenthood is, we need a president who has a similar view and would sign such a bill,” McConnell said.
Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said today that they’re taking the shutdown threat from members outside of GOP leadership seriously because “we’ve seen that movie — Ted Cruz in the starring role — just a couple of years ago.”
“My guess is they’re off to do it again, the wannabe presidential candidates and those people in the Republican caucus are looking for another government shutdown over another reason,” Durbin said. “Well, if they do that, it will remind people that when the Republicans are in charge in Congress, they can’t make this train run on time.”
Planned Parenthood funding and the prospect of a shutdown strategy is dividing the House, as well.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) contends that the current Defund Planned Parenthood Act in the lower chamber is too weak, saying it “simply restates” the Hyde Amendment.
“This bill does not defund Planned Parenthood – it reauthorizes Planned Parenthood to perform abortions with federal funds in the cases of rape, incest, and life of the mother. It does not take away any of their other streams of funding from the federal government or reduce federal funding to Planned Parenthood by even one dollar,” King said. “This bill takes a huge step backwards from the initial conservative position that Planned Parenthood should not be receiving federal funds.”
Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), though, dropped out of the conservative House Freedom Caucus today, arguing that their tactics “have repeatedly undermined the House’s ability to advance them” and ended up strengthening the Democrats’ hand.
“A common theme through each of these incidents is a willingness — indeed, an eagerness — to strip the House Republican majority of its ability to set the House agenda by combining with House Democrats on procedural motions,” McClintock said of the caucus colleagues. “As a result, it has thwarted vital conservative policy objectives and unwittingly become Nancy Pelosi’s tactical ally.”
The caucus, founded this year as many members found the Republican Study Committee not conservative enough, is led by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). With McClintock leaving, the caucus has 41 members.
“I have strongly opposed the public funding of abortions throughout my 29 years in public office, but this tactic promises only to shield Senate Democrats from their responsibility for a government shutdown and to alienate the public from the pro-life cause at precisely the time when undercover videos of Planned Parenthood’s barbaric practices are turning public opinion in our favor. I suspect this is why the leading pro-life organizations have been conspicuously unwilling to endorse the HFC position,” McClintock said. “…I feel that the HFC’s many missteps have made it counterproductive to its stated goals and I no longer wish to be associated with it.”