House Speaker John Boehner’s Survival Could Give a Win to Democrats

25 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Assembly passes bill barring federal money going to state’s Planned Parenthood clinics.

Shortly after Pope Francis’ address to Congress on Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell began the process through which the Republican-controlled legislature will ultimately fund Planned Parenthood along with the rest of the federal government.

WASHINGTON—The Senate moved closer Thursday to passing a spending bill needed to avoid a government shutdown next week, but plans in the more volatile House remained up in the air. The chamber first voted on a short-term funding bill that stripped Planned Parenthood of federal funding, simply so McConnell could demonstrate that the votes weren’t there.

Only days before the government’s current funding expires on Sept. 30, the Senate blocked a bill that would have kept it open through Dec. 11 and rerouted $235 million away from Planned Parenthood. Tom MacArthur and 10 of his fellow freshmen endorsed a short-term spending bill to keep the federal government open past next Wednesday and avoid “another unnecessary and harmful government shutdown.” The lawmakers said they would prefer to pass legislation funding the government for the 12 months beginning Oct. 1, but would support a temporary measure to provide “the additional time necessary to negotiate final spending numbers.” The letter was circulated among other members of the House Republican conference in attempt to get support for legislation that would avoid the second government shutdown in two years.

Republican supporters said the goal was to ensure no money goes to abortion providers and that the measure would not limit women’s access to birth control, cancer screenings and sexually transmitted disease prevention and treatment. Republican lawmakers have attacked the organization following the release of heavily edited videos by an anti-abortion group that purport to show Planned Parenthood employees violating federal law by selling parts from aborted fetuses for profit. House Republicans have been dueling over how to respond to videos released this summer showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing fees for procuring fetal tissue for medical researchers.

House Speaker John Boehner could do what he usually ends up doing—bring up the “clean” funding bill and pass it with the help of Democrats—but conservatives are dangling a coup threat over him. But under the bill, abortion providers could not get any money, instead giving it to the state’s Well-Woman program that provides breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings for women between the ages of 45 and 64. House GOP leaders are expected to propose at a closed-door conference meeting Friday morning ramping up oversight of Planned Parenthood and using reconciliation, a procedural shortcut tied to the budget process, to try to cut the group’s federal funding, according to senior GOP aides. “We intend to put legislation on the president’s desk, and we can do that through our budget process,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) told CNN Thursday. Not only do Senate Democrats have enough votes to block any legislation defunding Planned Parenthood, but the Republicans can’t assemble a two-thirds majority in either house to override a likely presidential veto. Two years ago, House Republicans took a similar tack, refusing to vote to finance government operations unless the spending bill eliminated all funding for the Affordable Care Act, which has provided health insurance for millions of Americans.

Or if he’s willing to suffer the wound to his pride, he could work to strike a deal with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats that would make him stronger than ever. Typically the parties try not to fiddle with each other’s business, though: The majority elects its leader as speaker and the minority votes for its own top choice. Even though the bill’s goal is to defund Planned Parenthood in Wisconsin, the group will continue to ensure patients “receive the quality, nonjudgmental health care they need — no matter what,” executive director Tanya Atkinson said in a statement after the vote. Fred Kessler argued that if a woman has a prescription for birth control, she should not be denied just because the person dispensing it disagrees on religious grounds.

It would put an end to the brinksmanship that’s dominated Boehner’s tenure over the last four years and wrest Republican power from its locus in the Tea Party-centric Freedom Caucus. And though Boehner can’t be termed a moderate, Democrats would rather have him running the show than a more right-wing member who might want to give the whole Let the government default on its debt for fun! thing a shot.

Some of the GOP opposition came from lawmakers who said they objected to passing another short-term budget patch. “Nebraskans know this city isn’t serious. Ben Sasse (R., Neb.). “Washington’s false choice between ‘fund it all’ or ‘shut the government down’ is nonsense.” Democrats said Republicans were wasting time by bringing up bills that would damage women’s health instead of moving quickly to prevent a shutdown. Chris Van Hollen, a top Democrat, has thrown some cold water publicly on the idea. “My view is that the Republican caucus will have to make its own decisions,” he said late last week. As the Hill points out, Van Hollen’s circumstances are peculiar: He’s running against a more left-wing challenger for the Democratic Senate nomination in Maryland next year, so he doesn’t want to start hollering in public about how much he’d love to bail out Boehner.

At the end of all the annoying, recurring funding showdowns, Democrats get their way: McConnell folds, Boehner folds, and the Democrats get their clean funding resolutions and debt ceiling hikes. Since there isn’t much agency involved in the internally unpopular choices any GOP speaker has to make, McCarthy would have to run the House much as Boehner has: by taking the least bad options available to him. That may be fine with House conservatives, too: They may just want to lop off someone’s head, and it would work well for them to have another “establishment” figure in charge to scapegoat for their natural lack of leverage. Unless House Democrats can extract some extraordinary promises from Boehner for their votes—a push to increase the minimum wage, a significant lift in the sequester caps on discretionary spending—it’s more useful for Democrats to watch House Republican chaos run its course as outside observers.

Our partners
Follow us
Contact us
Our contacts

About this site