Pro-life leaders warn of dangers of government shutdown, as U.S. Senate rejects tying Planning Parenthood cutoff to government-wide funding bill

circlesandflamereWASHINGTON (Sept. 24, 2015) — The U.S. Senate today defeated a resolution to fund government programs on a temporary basis while blocking all federal funding to Planned Parenthood for one year.

The measure, a “continuing resolution,” drew only 47 votes — 13 votes short of the 60 votes that would have been necessary to send it out of the Senate, and 20 votes short of the two-thirds margin required to override a presidential veto.

The measure had been brought before the Senate by pro-life Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who said it presented Senate Democrats with an opportunity to prevent a government shutdown while re-directing funds away from Planned Parenthood. McConnell said, “Let us agree that it makes sense to at least place a scandal-plagued political organization on ‘leave without pay’ — and then use that money to fund women’s health care– as Congress investigates serious allegations.”

Following the defeat of the resolution, McConnell introduced a second continuing resolution, which would temporarily fund government programs, but without any controversial new limitations. The Senate is expected to vote on this “clean CR” around September 28, at which time it is expected to pass and be sent to the House of Representatives for further action.

The government’s current appropriations authority expires on midnight on September 30, the end of the federal fiscal year.

House and Senate Republican leaders reportedly continued to explore the possibility of using a special procedure known as “reconciliation” to curb the flow of federal funds to Planned Parenthood. Reconciliation bills, which can deal only with certain spending-related matters, can be approved in the Senate with a simple majority (rather than 60 votes), but still require a president’s signature to become law.

However, as reported in Roll Call, the well-funded organization Heritage Action is opposing attacking Planned Parenthood funding through a reconciliation bill. “It appears that the group prefers a shutdown, for purposes chiefly unrelated to pro-life priorities,” said NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson.

In the House, some Republicans, most affiliated with the House Freedom Caucus, have indicated an intention to vote against any funding bill that does not contain a new law to block funding for Planned Parenthood, despite the lack of sufficient votes to pass such a measure in the Senate. In an op ed in the September 24 Wall Street Journal, former White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove dubbed this group “the GOP’s suicide caucus” and warned that “any Republicans who engineer a shutdown will be unwitting allies of the abortion movement.”

Still, some House members associated with the effort have indicated an intention to seek to unseat pro-life House Speaker John Boehner (R-Oh.) if he fails to support their shutdown strategy. An article that appeared in the New York Times on September 17 quoted NRLC Executive Director David O’Steen: “Mr. Boehner has always made protection of life a heartfelt priority. He has always supported and promoted pro-life legislation, he has repeatedly faciliated bringing pro-life legislation to the floor whenever feasible, he has attended and spoken at our convention and he has marched for life, the first speaker to do so. We believe he cares deeply for unborn children and is doing everything he can to seek their protection.”

In an article published September 18, NRLC President Carol Tobias warned, “The grim fact is this: in order to defund Planned Parenthood, we must have a pro-life president. . . . We need a pro-life president who will appoint justices to the Supreme Court who will allow legislators to restore legal protections to unborn children. We need a pro-life president who will work hand-in-hand with the right-to-life movement to ensure that the most vulnerable members of our society are protected by our laws. All of these goals are more easily and effectively achieved if the 71% of American voters opposed to a government shutdown aren’t angry at the pro-life candidates running for president.”

“Pursuing a shutdown is a legislative strategy that amounts to collectively holding our breath until we pass out,” commented NRLC’s Douglas Johnson.