Senate Blocks Government Funding Bill Tied To Abortion

25 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

McConnell moves ahead with bipartisan stopgap spending bill.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate’s top Republican moved swiftly to avoid a government shutdown in six days, pushing legislation that would keep agencies operating without a contentious fight over money for Planned Parenthood.TO UNDERSTAND why some people are incapable of learning from their mistakes, neuroscientists in Albuquerque, New Mexico, scanned the brains of 96 convicts.

The action of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., followed a decisive Senate vote blocking a bill that would have stripped Planned Parenthood of its taxpayer funding while keeping the government running through Dec. 11. It would be interesting to carry out the experiment on the 40-odd Republican congressmen, members of the self-styled Freedom Caucus, who are aching for a fight with Barack Obama over the budget.

If they have their way, past fights suggest, the result will be a funding crisis leading, from October 1st, to the closure of all non-essential government departments, misery for millions, damage to the economy and a further loss of trust in America’s democratic institutions, starting with the congressmen’s own party. McConnell immediately offered a bipartisan stopgap spending bill free of the Planned Parenthood dispute that’s expected to easily clear the Senate next week by a wide bipartisan margin. MacArthur (R-3rd Dist.) also broke from other members of his party in February when he said he would vote for legislation funding the Homeland Security Department even if the bill didn’t roll back President Obama’s executive orders on immigration. The opportunity for recidivism arises because the House of Representatives has failed to pass a federal budget for the financial year beginning next month, as it often does.

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. And there is no prospect of bundling the missing bills together; Republicans want to raise defence and cut welfare spending, Democrats want to increase both, and there is no time to reach a compromise. The White House signaled President Barack Obama would sign the measure, called a continuing resolution, into law — if the House steps aside from the fight tea party Republicans want over “defunding” Planned Parenthood. “I think we all know we’re going to have a clean CR,” said Sen. To keep the government open, Congress must pass a straightforward “continuing resolution” to extend the current funding arrangements for a month or two.

Republicans opposed to Planned Parenthood, which provides abortions in addition to other women’s health services, don’t have the votes to pass legislation to fund the government but eliminate federal support for the group. 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. Planned Parenthood also points out that its government funding pays for cancer screenings, syphilis treatment and other non-controversial services; the abortions are funded separately. The Freedom Caucus demands that John Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the House, insert a caveat to that effect into the anticipated continuing resolution. “This is not about women’s health,” says Mick Mulvaney, a Republican congressman from South Carolina. “It’s about trafficking in pieces of dead children.” His outrage is sincere; yet what he and his fellows are demanding of Mr Boehner is so reckless and unrealistic, and so consistent with their record of attempting wild, hapless heists against both Mr Obama and the Republican leadership, that these protestations are nonetheless unimpressive. The government would then shut down, as it did in 2013, after the same group of Republicans demanded, as the price of their support for funding the government, that the then Democrat-led Senate ditch Obamacare, Mr Obama’s prize domestic achievement.

Conservative hard-liners including Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, were summoned to Boehner’s suite but would not comment on his plans. But a GOP leadership aide, requiring anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, said GOP leaders were considering immediately crafting a separate filibuster-proof budget measure that would permit Republicans to deliver to Obama a measure to take away almost $500 million a year in taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood, most of which goes to provide health services to the poor via the Medicaid program. The ensuing shutdown lasted three weeks, cost an estimated $24 billion in lost output and most Americans blamed the Republicans; during the crisis they had the worst ratings of either party for over two decades. They consider conflict with Mr Obama their mission, conflict with their party bosses a secondary duty, and shutting down the government to be possibly no bad thing, given its potential to slim the state.

In the bitterly polarised districts they represent—in a country where four-fifths of congressional districts offer no real prospect of a contest between the parties—voters are similarly convinced of these things, which is why there is in fact a deal of self-interest in the Freedom Caucus’s wrecking job. Stan Collender, an expert on the budget process, considers the row “the most nakedly political threatened shutdown we’ve seen”, and puts the chance of one at 75% and rising. Within the next few months Congress will have to negotiate difficult votes on tax, transport and the debt ceiling, as well as the budget it has so far been incapable of drawing up.

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