Senate Leader Offers Bill to Keep Agencies Open and Defund Planned Parenthood

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced the short-term spending bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced the short-term spending bill. Evan Vucci/AP

Here we go again.

With just five le­gis­lat­ive days left be­fore a gov­ern­ment shut­down, Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell on Tues­day morn­ing filed a short-term gov­ern­ment fund­ing bill that would also de­fund Planned Par­ent­hood, a coup for con­ser­vat­ives in both cham­bers.

A vote on the meas­ure, which would fund the gov­ern­ment through Dec. 11, will come Thursday, along­side the pope’s vis­it to the Cap­it­ol. But the meas­ure is likely to fail, set­ting up a shut­down count­down clock in the Cap­it­ol build­ing ahead of the Sept. 30 dead­line to fund the gov­ern­ment.

Demo­crats have said re­peatedly that they will not sup­port any­thing but a clean con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion to fund the gov­ern­ment at its cur­rent spend­ing levels, and earli­er at­tempts to de­fund Planned Par­ent­hood failed to garner the 60 votes ne­ces­sary to pro­ceed, earn­ing just two Demo­crat­ic votes.

Giv­en the party’s stance on clean gov­ern­ment-fund­ing bills over the past sev­er­al years, it’s un­likely that any more Demo­crats will be swayed by this new le­gis­la­tion. But Re­pub­lic­ans could lose some of their own mem­bers on the meas­ure as well.

Sen. Susan Collins, a Re­pub­lic­an from Maine, said she would vote against a con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion that de­funds Planned Par­ent­hood, say­ing there should in­stead be an in­vest­ig­a­tion by the Justice De­part­ment to de­term­ine wheth­er the or­gan­iz­a­tion broke any laws.

“If the CR de­funds Planned Par­ent­hood … I would vote against that, be­cause … I don’t think the two is­sues should be linked. I think that we need a clean CR in or­der to make sure the gov­ern­ment does not shut down, and that is my top pri­or­ity,” Collins said.

Collins did say that she be­lieves the vote will show con­ser­vat­ives defin­it­ively that link­ing the at­tack on Planned Par­ent­hood with a gov­ern­ment spend­ing bill will not work.

“I don’t want to speak for the lead­er, but I be­lieve he is try­ing to show the House very clearly that link­ing the is­sue of fund­ing for Planned Par­ent­hood with fund­ing for all of gov­ern­ment is a non­starter here in the Sen­ate and that the Sen­ate does not want to see gov­ern­ment shut­down,” Collins said.

Collins said she is hope­ful for a clean, but very short-term con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion that would ex­pire as early as Novem­ber, to give her­self and fel­low mem­bers of the Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee time to draft new fund­ing bills and pass them through both cham­bers be­fore the end of the year.

Mc­Con­nell has said re­peatedly that a con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion that de­funds Planned Par­ent­hood would be in­cred­ibly dif­fi­cult to pass through the up­per cham­ber and would cer­tainly not earn the pres­id­ent’s sig­na­ture, warn­ing mem­bers of his party from trap­ping them­selves in a box canyon over fed­er­al fund­ing yet again.

But the vote will al­low Re­pub­lic­ans to go on the re­cord once again as op­pos­ing fund­ing for Planned Par­ent­hood, which has been at the cen­ter of con­tro­ver­sial video tapes al­leging that it has sold fetal tis­sue for profit. Re­pub­lic­ans will vote on the con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion along­side a Tues­day pro­ced­ur­al move to pass a fed­er­al 20-week abor­tion ban, just as the pope vis­its the Cap­it­ol on Thursday.

“We should stand for our prin­ciples, and our prin­ciples should not be sur­ren­der­ing to the Demo­crats,” Sen. Ted Cruz told re­port­ers Tues­day. Cruz has ral­lied con­ser­vat­ives in both cham­bers and re­li­gious lead­ers over the past few months in op­pos­i­tion to Planned Par­ent­hood, warn­ing Mc­Con­nell and oth­er con­gres­sion­al lead­ers that he will op­pose any gov­ern­ment-fund­ing meas­ure that provides money to the health or­gan­iz­a­tion.

When clo­ture on the Planned Par­ent­hood meas­ure fails, as soon as Thursday, Mc­Con­nell is ex­pec­ted to bring up a clean fund­ing bill that would keep the gov­ern­ment’s doors open through later this year, with sup­port from Demo­crats and a likely ma­jor­ity of Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans, who are fear­ful of earn­ing blame for an­oth­er gov­ern­ment shut­down in just a two-year span.

Wheth­er that can pass the House—where con­ser­vat­ives are sim­il­arly press­ing to de­fund Planned Par­ent­hood be­fore fund­ing the gov­ern­ment—ahead of the Sept. 30 dead­line re­mains an open ques­tion.

House Re­pub­lic­ans have a con­fer­ence meet­ing sched­uled for Fri­day where they will again dis­cuss how to tackle fed­er­al fund­ing for Planned Par­ent­hood and a short-term spend­ing meas­ure. 

Mc­Con­nell filed the le­gis­la­tion just minutes after Demo­crats again blocked a fund­ing bill for the De­fense De­part­ment, after prom­ising all sum­mer to block any fund­ing bills un­til Re­pub­lic­ans agreed to enter in­to ne­go­ti­ations to raise spend­ing caps on nondefense spend­ing for next year.

Mc­Con­nell blamed Demo­crats for tak­ing the coun­try to the brink of a shut­down over their “de­mands for more debt and more bur­eau­cracy” after fil­ing the con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion Tues­day, ask­ing Demo­crats to work with them to keep the gov­ern­ment open and “hit the pause but­ton” on Planned Par­ent­hood’s fund­ing while Con­gress in­vest­ig­ates the or­gan­iz­a­tion.

“Amer­ic­ans want Demo­crats to now work with us re­spons­ibly to get our coun­try get out of a situ­ation that they in fact have en­gin­eered. The bill be­fore us would do that,” Mc­Con­nell said. “It would keep the gov­ern­ment open through the fall while ad­her­ing to the bi­par­tis­an spend­ing levels already agreed to by both parties.”

Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id cri­ti­cized Mc­Con­nell for hold­ing yet an­oth­er vote on Planned Par­ent­hood fund­ing, the third this year, be­fore mov­ing onto a clean con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion. “This is yet an­oth­er case of the Re­pub­lic­an lead­er just wast­ing time be­fore we ad­dress the real deal,” he said, not­ing that the new Re­pub­lic­an ma­jor­ity in the Sen­ate has held “more re-votes than any oth­er ma­jor­ity party in the his­tory of our coun­try.”

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