As lawmakers return this week for some behind-the-scenes work on a continuing resolution — a measure that could be endangered by anti-abortion members insistent on defunding Planned Parenthood — House Republicans will put forward two bills to address the embattled group and potentially appease those conservatives.
The House is scheduled to vote on two abortion measures: one from Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., that would put a one-year moratorium on Planned Parenthood funding and one from Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., that would add criminal penalties for violating the Born Alive Infants Protection Act of 2002. Black's bill would simply prohibit federal funds from going to Planned Parenthood unless the group certifies its affiliates and clinics will not perform or provide any money for abortions, except in the case of rape, incest or danger to the mother’s health.
Boehner Coy on Government Shutdown Over Planned Parenthood
Franks' measure, which is still in the process of getting a bill number, would take on abortion doctors who harm infants showing signs of viable life or fail to provide medical care to a baby that survives an abortion.
While those measures may be aimed at placating a particular faction of the House Republican Conference, the House Freedom Caucus took an official position last week that its members — of which there are more than 40 — would oppose any spending measure that contains funding for Planned Parenthood .
Additionally, there are at least eight members who are not in the HFC who have signed on to a letter from Rep. Mick Mulvaney pledging to vote against any appropriations bill that doesn’t defund Planned Parenthood.
Those roughly 50 members in no way make up a majority of the House, Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer pointed out during his Sept. 11 colloquy with Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. But it is a vocal minority — one that adds a level of uncertainty to government funding, which runs dry on Sept. 30.
As much as leadership may want to believe conservative outrage over Planned Parenthood will be mollified with two messaging bills, far-right Republicans seem unlikely to give up on the defunding fight.
Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on a CR. There are only eight legislative days left in September and top Democrats report they have not really sat down with Republicans to discuss the stopgap spending measure. (Hoyer said on Sept. 11 that neither he, nor Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — nor Appropriations ranking Democrat Nita M. Lowey of New York — have had any “substantive discussions” with Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., or other GOP leaders.)
With so little time before the end of the fiscal year, Republicans and Democrats are going to have to work out a short-term spending bill quickly, particularly if conservatives promise to oppose any bill with Planned Parenthood funding, and Democrats seem unlikely to go along with a bill that doesn’t include Planned Parenthood money.
Congress is fast approaching an appropriations showdown, even though most everyone in Congress has said it isn’t their intention to shut down government.
What might ultimately save Congress is that this spending agreement is expected to be a short-term patch to enable both parties to work out a larger deal. A bill could come together relatively quickly.
But there are plenty of potential pitfalls, especially if conservatives feel the need to oppose procedural votes on a CR. And if GOP leadership did want to proceed with a CR defunding Planned Parenthood, even if it were to just get a bill to the Senate, leaders would have to find 218 Republican votes on a bill that frequently tests the loyalty of members.
In the meantime, Republicans will hope the two abortion bills will make members feel that Congress is addressing the Planned Parenthood videos.
Republicans will also vote on a bill to reduce lawsuits and a number of suspension bills.
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