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House Leaders Keeping Options Open on Shutdown

Boehner is trying to keep options open on the House side. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Boehner is trying to keep options open on the House side. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Two weeks away from a government shutdown, neither chamber has released a bill to fund the government past Sept. 30 — and it doesn’t seem like the House or the Senate are in much of a hurry.  

The House will vote on two abortion bills this week, a nod to conservative members who insist Congress has to take action after the release of a series of undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood executives discussing the harvesting of fetal tissue. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s office sent out a press release Tuesday that ended with this sentence: “Defunding Planned Parenthood and saving newborns is the right thing to do, and the House is going to do it.”  

That might seem like a strong statement, but the press release could be referring to Republican Tennessee Rep. Diane Black’s bill that would place a one-year moratorium on Planned Parenthood funding. And the back-half of that sentence — “the House is going to do it” — may be a signal of the stark reality facing Republicans: Without 60 votes, defunding Planned Parenthood in the Senate faces long odds, and with President Barack Obama in the White House, defunding seems even more unlikely.  

There’s little question that an upcoming continuing resolution, in its final form, will include Planned Parenthood funding. The question is whether Republicans are willing to enter into a shutdown over roughly $500 million for the group. (Conservatives would argue the question is whether Democrats are willing to shut down government over that same $500 million.)  

Still another question is whether Speaker John A. Boehner feels he needs to put forward a CR that strips Planned Parenthood of its funding. As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has acknowledged, there just aren’t the votes in his chamber for that sort of bill.  

But McConnell could make things a lot easier for Boehner if the House advanced a CR devoid of Planned Parenthood funding, the Senate put the funding back in, and Boehner then relied on Democrats to pass a short-term bill, giving the speaker room to argue that he had allowed the process to work.  

Of course, conservatives may never feel like Boehner fought for them. And pretending that Congress can actually defund Planned Parenthood might just further exacerbate the situation for the Ohio Republican.  

Democrats, practically watering at the mouth, are already racing to tag Republicans as the party of government shutdown. On Tuesday, the Bridge Project, an affiliate of American Bridge 21st Century, released a 21-page report of quotes from Republican leadership swearing that there won’t be another government shutdown.  


Even so, some Republicans argue that the electoral impact of the 2013 shutdown wasn’t so bad for the GOP: the party picked up more than a dozen seats in the House and nine in the Senate.  

But it’s unclear how much of a factor the shutdown played. The Senate gains could have been the result of which seats were up for re-election. And as bad as the map was for Democrats in 2014, it’s far worse for Republicans in 2016.  

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.

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