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Collins Warns House Against Amending a Clean CR

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Susan Collins does not want the House meddling with a clean stopgap spending bill that the Senate will inevitably need to pass.  

Officially, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hasn’t announced the plan for when Democrats filibuster the continuing resolution that also blocks funding for Planned Parenthood, but there will be just a few days to advance a bill that President Barack Obama might actually sign into law to avoid a government shutdown.  

And Collins, R-Maine, said Tuesday after the weekly conference lunch that Republicans across the Rotunda should see the writing on the wall.  

“It would be cutting it too close,” Collins said of the possibility that the House could send a CR to the Senate with provisions opposed by Democrats. “I’m uncomfortable that we’ve waited this long as it is, and I said, I’m disappointed that the Democrats have repeatedly blocked our attempts to bring the defense appropriations bill to the Senate floor, which has widespread support.”  

The Senate’s rules provide no shortage of ways for a small cadre of objecting senators to prevent quick passage of a CR.  

“My top priority is to prevent another disastrous government shutdown. The majority leader’s strategy makes sense because it will give people the opportunity to vote to defund Planned Parenthood if they want to. I don’t think that there are 60 votes in the Senate for that approach, which will demonstrate to the House that we really need a clean CR,” Collins said.  

It was not immediately clear which chamber would make the next move after Democrats blockade the CR proposed by McConnell that includes the language to transfer funds from Planned Parenthood. That vote is expected after Pope Francis’ visit on Thursday.
“I think initially everyone … concluded that giving the Senate ball control by taking the first whack at this and demonstrating what the traffic will bear in terms of where the votes are in the Senate, would give the House an indication of where we are. So we will have a vote over here with the Planned Parenthood provision in it and see, as the leader said, where the votes are, and then go to Plan B,” Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune of South Dakota said. “I don’t know, at that point, whether that means the Senate will lead or the House will lead.” But once Thursday’s vote happens, there is little doubt the Senate will have the 60 votes needed to move a clean spending measure.  

“I’d love to see that $500 million used for other … qualifying centers to serve women, and we’re going to have a chance to vote on that. If that’s not successful then yes, yes I would support a clean CR,” said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.  

Corker said Republican leadership had been working for some time on other vehicles that could advance to address the Planned Parenthood issue, but he would not go into specifics.  

A House Republican aide familiar with House-Senate discussions said the House GOP leaders were aware McConnell would be moving to a CR that contained language restricting funding for Planned Parenthood for one year, which closely mirrors the bill the House passed last Friday sponsored by Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn.  

As for what House Republicans would or wouldn’t do now that the Senate has taken the first step, Emily Schillinger, a spokeswoman for Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, said the House Republican Conference  remains focused on the House.  

“House Republican leaders continue to talk with members about the path forward on a continuing resolution and legislation that would stop abortion providers from their horrific practices against babies,” she said.  

House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers said in a statement sent to CQ Roll Call that the focus would be on enacting legislation.  

“The most important thing is that we keep the government open for business so that we provide stability to our economy and continue vital federal programs on which all Americans rely. I am pleased that there is forward legislative momentum in the Senate to avoid a government shutdown,” the Kentucky Republican said. “The House Appropriations Committee remains at-the-ready to act quickly on our side of the Capitol on a Continuing Resolution as soon as final decisions on process, content, and timing are made.”  

By the time the House next gavels into session to move bills, Rogers and his House colleagues will know for certain that the Senate cannot advance the Planned Parenthood rider, not that they should have had any doubt if they have been listening to Senate Democrats such as Appropriations ranking member Barbara A. Mikulski.  

“Today, Senate Republicans showed that they are ready to shutdown the government over the defunding of Planned Parenthood — an organization that provides 2.7 million people with access to health care every year,” Mikulski said in a statement. “Even Senate Majority Leader McConnell has admitted that tying the defunding of Planned Parenthood to government funding will not work and is ‘an exercise in futility’ that could lead to a government shutdown.”  

Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.

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