The focus of the spending debate on Capitol Hill may be over how big the cuts should be, but House conservatives are threatening to sink a final deal on other grounds.
More than a dozen House Republicans confirmed Wednesday that their vote on any long-term continuing resolution could well hinge on whether it includes language to cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which offers abortion services.
“I think it is critical that they put it in there for our Members,” Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (Ohio) said.
“Look, I think the White House and the Senate need to understand Americans don’t like their tax dollars being used to go to an organization like Planned Parenthood that is being used to take the life of unborn kids,” Jordan said, noting that he had made that case to Republican leaders and that they “understand how important it is.”
Rep. Mike Pence, the author of the amendment to last month’s House-passed continuing resolution on funding for Planned Parenthood, went a step further: He called on House Republicans to “pick a fight” over the issue.
“I think we need to make a stand, I think we need to pick a fight and we need to fight for the budget cuts and the policy riders that are at the center of H.R. 1,” Pence said. The Indiana Republican said he is continuing to talk to his colleagues about the importance of keeping the abortion language in the final, broader bill.
House and Senate leaders and the White House have begun initial talks on a long-term spending plan, but so far they have not come to an agreement. House Republicans passed a measure last month that cut $61 billion in spending; Senate Democrats proposed an alternative that cut $10.5 billion. Both measures failed in the Senate on Wednesday.
House Republicans are also pushing for separate language that would ban the District of Columbia from using any federal funds for abortion services.
The showdown over abortion funding and Planned Parenthood comes as GOP leaders are starting to craft a second, short-term stopgap spending measure to avoid a government shutdown. Congress passed an initial short-term CR last week that keeps the government operating through March 18. A second short-term measure will be needed if the two sides can’t strike a deal before then.
Michael Steel, spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), declined Wednesday to discuss how leadership is planning to deal with conservative concerns over abortion funding.
“At this point, our position is [to support] H.R. 1, which includes those provisions,” Steel said in a statement. “We’re still waiting to see a plan to cut spending and help create jobs from the Democrats who run Washington.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.