Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said it would be best to go after Planned Parenthood funding in a long-term spending bill.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said it would be best to go after Planned Parenthood funding in a long-term spending bill. Sue Ogrocki/AP

GOP Leaders Try to Urge Conservatives Away From a Shutdown

NRCC Chairman warns Republicans that shutting down the government over Planned Parenthood funding could have dire repercussions.

House Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers are try­ing a new strategy to counter hard­liners in their con­fer­ence who want them to shut down the gov­ern­ment over fund­ing for Planned Par­ent­hood: reas­on.

Lead­er­ship, ap­pro­pri­at­ors, cam­paign of­fi­cials and anti-abor­tion ad­voc­ates are out in full force try­ing to dis­suade Re­pub­lic­ans from push­ing the con­fer­ence in­to what they see as an un­winnable shut­down fight over fed­er­al fund­ing for the wo­men’s health or­gan­iz­a­tion.

The latest ef­fort came Thursday morn­ing at a private meet­ing of the Re­pub­lic­an Con­fer­ence at the Na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an Con­gres­sion­al Com­mit­tee headquar­ters near the Cap­it­ol. NR­CC Chair­man Greg Walden presen­ted mem­bers with a poll of 18 battle­ground dis­tricts that showed dire polit­ic­al re­per­cus­sions for Re­pub­lic­ans if they fol­low through with this battle.

He said that only about half of those polled in the battle­ground dis­tricts had seen the un­der­cov­er videos show­ing Planned Par­ent­hood rep­res­ent­at­ives dis­cuss­ing har­vest­ing fetal tis­sue, which have formed the basis for the cru­sade to zero out the or­gan­iz­a­tion’s fed­er­al grants. But more im­port­antly, he said, even those who are sup­port­ive of Re­pub­lic­ans’ ef­forts do not sup­port the tac­tic of risk­ing a gov­ern­ment shut­down. 

“The pub­lic in battle­ground dis­tricts does not sup­port shut­ting down the gov­ern­ment even among those who sup­port de­fund­ing Planned Par­ent­hood and have seen the videos,” Walden said in an in­ter­view, de­scrib­ing the data he presen­ted to his mem­bers. “Voters would be less likely to sup­port a mem­ber of Con­gress who did that by a pretty good num­ber.”

Walden also de­tailed data that he called “dev­ast­at­ing” show­ing how the 2013 shut­down af­fected the pub­lic’s per­cep­tion of Re­pub­lic­ans. Mem­bers push­ing lead­ers to link Planned Par­ent­hood fund­ing to a con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion have ar­gued that after that shut­down, Re­pub­lic­ans won a his­tor­ic ma­jor­ity in the House as well as their first Sen­ate ma­jor­ity in years. But Walden said the truth is the pub­lic was down on the GOP.

“That’s a false nar­rat­ive. It is not backed up by the facts,” Walden said. “Our re­cov­ery only came with the abysmal rol­lout of Obama­care.”

At a private meet­ing of the House Re­pub­lic­ans in the Cap­it­ol con­vened Wed­nes­day night to talk ex­clus­ively about how to handle Planned Par­ent­hood fund­ing, oth­er mem­bers made oth­er ar­gu­ments to try to stave off the shut­down fight.

Rep. Tom Cole, the chair­man of the Ap­pro­pri­ations Sub­com­mit­tee that is re­spons­ible for the money doled out to Planned Par­ent­hood, told mem­bers that Con­gress could not ac­tu­ally change the status of Planned Par­ent­hood’s fed­er­al funds in a short-term con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion be­cause they are al­lot­ted through Title X grants that have already been giv­en out. The bet­ter strategy, he ad­vised, would be to go after the fund­ing in a long-term bill.

“There’s no Title X money be­ing giv­en out right now. These grants are an­nu­al and we’ve been told, my sub­com­mit­tee has been told by the De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices, they’re not plan­ning a grant cycle un­til next April,” Cole said, para­phras­ing his re­marks. “So if you want to make a sym­bol­ic state­ment, you can cer­tainly at­tach something to a CR I guess, but if you think that’s go­ing to have any prac­tic­al ef­fect for the peri­od of the CR, it won’t.”

Fur­ther­more, lead­ers point to the fact that a min­is­cule pro­por­tion of Planned Par­ent­hood’s fed­er­al fund­ing is giv­en out in the dis­cre­tion­ary budget. Ac­cord­ing to a Con­gres­sion­al Budget Of­fice re­port re­leased­Wed­nes­day, Planned Par­ent­hood re­ceives about $60 mil­lion through the Na­tion­al Fam­ily Plan­ning Pro­gram, op­er­ated un­der Title X. The rest of the roughly $450 mil­lion of fed­er­al fund­ing is provided through Medi­caid, Medi­care and the Chil­dren’s Health In­sur­ance Pro­gram, which can­not be changed through the ap­pro­pri­ations pro­cess. 

Lead­ers have also been been point­ing to state­ments from anti-abor­tion groups not­ing that a shut­down would hurt their cause.  Al­though some anti-abor­tion ad­voc­ates, such as the Susan B. An­thony List, have ad­voc­ated for link­ing anti-abor­tion le­gis­la­tion to a spend­ing bill, oth­er pro-life groups, such as the Na­tion­al Right to Life Com­mit­tee and the U.S. Con­fer­ence of Cath­ol­ic Bish­ops, have re­cently come out against a gov­ern­ment shut­down, say­ing it would be harm­ful to the pro-life cause.

“Fund­ing for Planned Par­ent­hood should ab­so­lutely be re­dir­ec­ted to true health­care that re­spects wo­men and their ba­bies, but it is not at all clear that shut­ting down the gov­ern­ment over this is­sue will ad­vance ef­forts to pro­tect in­no­cent hu­man life. Con­gress should take votes on pro-life le­gis­la­tion in a way that genu­inely ad­vances our ef­forts to en­sure the dig­nity of every hu­man per­son is pro­tec­ted by law,” said Jayd Hen­ricks, ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of gov­ern­ment re­la­tions for the USCCB. 

Still, sev­er­al mem­bers said privately they do not think any of this will change the minds of mem­bers who are adam­antly push­ing lead­ers to at­tack Planned Par­ent­hood in a fund­ing bill. In­stead, the mem­bers spec­u­lated that the edu­ca­tion cam­paign is meant to give cov­er to mem­bers who will in­ev­it­ably have to take a tough vote at the end of the month to pass a CR with no Planned Par­ent­hood pro­vi­sions.