Path Toward 'Clean' Spending Stopgap Bill Emerges

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday began laying the groundwork for the chamber to advance a “clean” continuing resolution in the coming days after Democrats and some Republicans banded together to block consideration of a stopgap with Planned Parenthood defunding language.

Meanwhile, House members sped up their discussions behind closed doors, and one senior GOP member said the House might first pass a stopgap bill that defunds Planned Parenthood, then vote on the "clean" Senate-passed CR. All of the activity came just days ahead of the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

According to a senior House GOP aide, House GOP leaders meeting Thursday had a discussion that focused on using the reconciliation process to defund Planned Parenthood and sending a bill to President Barack Obama's desk. Reconciliation is expected to be discussed at a meeting of the GOP conference on Friday morning.

House GOP leaders are tentatively planning a markup of reconciliation legislation by Ways and Means and two other authorizing committees next week, but no dates have been set.

They also plan to talk at the conference meeting about "making sure we advance the pro-life cause," the aide said, as well as ramping up oversight and investigative activities and sending more pro-life measures to the Senate. "The leaders will discuss these issues with the conference tomorrow," the aide said.

The conservative group Heritage Action for America has opposed use of reconciliation for defunding and reiterated that position Thursday night. “Using the budget reconciliation process for anything other than full repeal of Obamacare is a distraction, and means GOP leaders broke their promise," said Dan Holler of Heritage Action, in a statement.

"Between now and the inauguration of the next president, Planned Parenthood will carry out more than 400,000 abortions. Reconciliation will not prevent that.  The objective of pro-life lawmakers should be to defund this organization, and pro-life members should not be asked to cast a vote for a bill that sends money to Planned Parenthood.”

New Senate Plan

 In the Senate, immediately after the chamber rejected the initial CR written by McConnell (HR 719) on a 47-52 vote — 60 votes were needed to advance — the Kentucky Republican quickly turned to averting a shutdown by teeing up a vote on a version of the 10-week bill without language targeting the women’s health group.

Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, said a cloture vote on the “clean” CR would occur Monday at 5:30 p.m., which was later confirmed by McConnell in floor remarks.

A senior Senate GOP aide said that an Federal Aviation Administration extension has been removed from the latest version of the continuing resolution, because the underlying House vehicle (HR 719) does not contain revenue provisions. Therefore, the extension of FAA will move separately.

The timeline being pursued by the Senate gives House Republicans little time to maneuver before government agencies are forced to shut down on Oct. 1.

Earlier Thursday, Texas Republican Ted Cruz reiterated his pledge to use all procedural tools to stop any CR that includes funding for Planned Parenthood but suggested he would not force a weekend session.

Cruz is scheduled to hold presidential campaign events in Iowa on Saturday.

"When it comes to fighting to prevent the underlying funding, that does not necessarily entail disrupting scheduling,” Cruz told reporters Thursday. “Every procedural tool I have used, and will continue to use, is directed towards the underlying goal of honoring the commitments we made to the men and women who elected us. And whether the vote is on Saturday or Sunday or Monday or Tuesday, does not have a meaningful difference in terms of our ability to win the vote.”

In the Senate, a coalition of eight GOP abortion rights supporters, defense hawks and budget hawks voted with all but one Democrat to turn down the stopgap with Planned Parenthood language Tuesday afternoon. The White House threatened to veto the legislation earlier that morning.

House Leaders Meet

The Senate action came as top House Republican leaders met with senior members of the House Freedom Caucus. The group of roughly 40 conservative lawmakers has been leading the charge on including Planned Parenthood defunding language on the CR. Some of its members have also suggested they could push a vote to depose Boehner should he fail to push hard enough on abortion.

The Freedom Caucus members insisted they would not discuss the details of the meeting, to which they were summoned by Boehner. Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., said he didn't anticipate there would be a government shutdown on Oct. 1 but wouldn't elaborate beyond that.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., told reporters he thought leadership would lose 50 Republican votes on a CR if it fails to defund Planned Parenthood.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said House GOP leadership's current plan is to pass a continuing resolution soon with language like that in an already passed bill from Diane Black, R-Tenn., (HR 3134) that would freeze funding for Planned Parenthood for one year.

That measure would die in the Senate, which in the meantime would send the House a "clean CR." The plan, as Cole understands it, would have the House pass that "clean" stopgap close to the government shutdown deadline.

Some Senate Republicans on Thursday suggested that the government would not shut down next week.

“We’ve experienced that. I don’t think that’s going to come,” said Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.

"The votes for a clean CR are certainly here in the Senate," Flake said, adding he'd be one of them.

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain McCain told reporters he "absolutely" would vote for a clean CR because "there are so many stories in my state" of negative impacts from the last shutdown.

"I think it is up to the House. I think a CR without that (Planned Parenthood defunding) in it is going to pass the Senate and go to the House," McCain said.

 

John T. Bennett, Matthew Fleming, Emma Dumain, Steven T. Dennis and Amelia Frappolli contributed to this report.

 

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