The No. 2 Senate Republican instantly dismissed the fresh shutdown threat from members of the House Freedom Caucus, who declared they wouldn't vote for any spending bill keeping the government open if it funds Planned Parenthood.
"We're not going to engage in a shutdown scenario," said Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas. "That will set the pro-life movement back, not advance it. We've got better ideas to actually advance the pro-life agenda." President Barack Obama has threatened to veto any bill that eliminates funding for Planned Parenthood. Republicans have been seeking to defund the group for years, but many have dug in after the release of a series of videos showing senior Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of body parts from aborted fetuses.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has also pre-emptively waved the white flag on defunding Planned Parenthood , saying it's an issue for the 2016 presidential race.
That hasn't sat well with some conservative Republicans, with Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and a number of other presidential candidates questioning why the GOP would send Obama a bill keeping the $500 million a year in federal funding in place.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said Congress has a duty to decide how money should be spent and can't see how Obama would be able to say Republicans were shutting down the government when they were offering to fund all of it except for Planned Parenthood.
"There is no reason whatsoever we should fund Planned Parenthood," he said. "If you acquiesce and acknowledge the president is correct then Congress has no power whatsoever over the purse. ... I just don't see how that's a losing issue. I think the president would look awful. He's going to veto the Defense bill? He's going to veto all these other bills? ...We don't need to be hiding under the table."
Without the votes of the Freedom Caucus, Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, would need Democratic votes to send the Senate a bill keeping the government open that Obama would sign. That's not a particularly new development; pretty much every major budget deal since Republicans took back the House has required the votes of at least some of Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi's flock.