Senate Republicans Take Steps to Avert a Government Shutdown

23 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Abortion and a government shutdown: Republicans split over how far to take their fight.

Senate Republican leaders set up a test vote for Thursday that could be the first step toward avoiding a U.S. government shutdown when funding runs out Sept. 30.

WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats thwarted a Republican effort to ban late-term abortions on Tuesday as GOP leaders strained to avoid a government shutdown in eight days over the dispute — all against a tangled backdrop of presidential politics.Senate Democrats blocked Republican legislation Tuesday that would prohibit most late-term abortions, the second time since this summer’s release of videos involving Planned Parenthood that they’ve derailed an abortion-related drive by the GOP.

Fiorina’s in the big leagues now: She was the consensus breakout star of the second Republican debate, major donors are flocking to her, and her national coverage has skyrocketed. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that he will seek the vote on a measure to keep the government operating until Dec. 11 while stripping funds from Planned Parenthood for a year — as many conservative Republicans insist on doing. The family-planning organization has been under fierce attack since its officials were shown on secretly-recorded videos discussing the costs involved in collecting tissue from aborted fetuses to be donated for scientific research.

But in Clinton’s camp, she’s hardly seen as a threat. “It’s clear when you talk to Republicans that she’s a flash in the pan,” said one Washington-based Democratic strategist familiar with the thinking inside Clinton’s operation, who also dismissed her as “the flavor of the month.” Half a dozen Democratic strategists and donors echoed that view, noting Fiorina’s low polling ceiling and rejecting the idea that the former Hewlett Packard CEO’s gender would pose a problem for Clinton. McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, wouldn’t say what the Senate would do next, but Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said the only alternative will be to offer a stopgap spending bill that leaves Planned Parenthood funds untouched.

That plan would win the support of Democrats. “If he’s not going to do that, I have no idea what he’s trying next,” Reid of Nevada told reporters. The Republican governor last month said he was stopping the money, citing now-famous hidden camera footage shot by anti-abortion activists that implied the group was selling fetal tissue to researchers. Barbara Boxer, a Clinton ally who beat Fiorina in a 2010 Senate race — is so obvious that even if she did break to the top of polls, she would be easy to dispatch. “When people find out she ran her company into the ground and jumped out of the plane with a golden parachute, they’ll run,” said California Democratic strategist Ace Smith, who worked on Boxer’s campaign and played Fiorina in the senator’s 2010 debate prep.

That legislation will fail due to Democratic opposition, allowing McConnell to argue that Senate Republicans tried the hard-line tactic proposed by Sen. With Republicans holding 54 Senate seats, the outcome was pre-ordained, but the showdown let each side highlight its willingness to battle for its most loyal voters and contributors. With federal funds set to expire Sept. 30, “he better move to a clean CR,” he said, using shorthand for a short-term spending bill known as a continuing resolution. McConnell could then turn to a “clean” funding bill that Democrats have promised to support. “There’s going to be votes to defund Planned Parenthood. Cohen said the accusations raised in the videos were “patently false” and didn’t involve Alabama clinics. “It misrepresents practices in unrelated Planned Parenthood affiliates in other states and does not relate in any way to Planned Parenthood Southeast,” Cohen said.

It makes the stuff against Mitt Romney look like child’s play.” All it would take to beat her would be television spots featuring the workers who were laid off under Fiorina at HP, multiple Democrats said. The judge didn’t immediately rule on a preliminary injunction to restore the money, but suggested the state explain to the organization why it was ending the funding, which has amounted to less than $5,000 from the state over the last two years for office visits and birth control pills and injections.

One particularly effective Boxer ad noted that, “while Californians lost their jobs, Fiorina tripled her salary, bought a million-dollar yacht and five corporate jets.” So there’s no new Fiorina task force in Brooklyn or at the offices of the pro-Clinton super PACs. The Senate voted 54-42 to move ahead on the legislation, but that fell six votes short of the 60 needed to crack a filibuster mostly led by Democrats. Congress is on a limited schedule this week, because of the historic visit by Pope Francis, as well as the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur, but behind the scenes McConnell and his leadership team are working to keep his promise and avert next week’s looming shutdown. “We were sent here not to shut down the government, but to make the government operate to the benefit of taxpayers,” said Sen. That measure faces likely defeat in the Senate. “Recent reports suggest that Planned Parenthood practices in this regard are inconsistent with accepted standards,” wrote John C. After Thursday’s vote, the Republican leader will then likely ask the Senate to approve a straight-forward stopgap funding bill, as soon as Saturday, without the Planned Parenthood provision, sources said.

Nobody in Brooklyn has even called Smith — who ran Clinton’s California and Texas operations in 2008 — to ask for advice in handling her, he said. McConnell said earlier this month that while he supports defunding Planned Parenthood, further efforts to take funds from the organization would be “exercises in futility” because President Barack Obama wouldn’t sign such a measure. “Planned Parenthood is an organization that provides health care to millions of families across the country” and doesn’t use tax dollars for abortions, Earnest said. Ted Cruz of Texas, said Tuesday. “I’m tired of the people on my side of the aisle who have been pushing this strategy, even though they know they don’t have the votes,” said Sen.

By having the Senate take the lead on a so-called “clean” spending measure, leaders would be trying to push past their conservative House GOP colleagues, who are expected to oppose such a compromise, and turn to Democrats for passage. “We’ll try to move something shortly, after the pope’s visit,” said Sen. He also has said that efforts to halt Planned Parenthood’s money won’t succeed unless Obama is replaced by a Republican president in next year’s elections.

Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., up for re-election in a state Obama carried twice. “Therefore, they can’t answer the question, ‘What’s the endgame for success here?'” Ultimately, McConnell’s moves appeared aimed at delivering a temporary government-wide funding bill to the House, where abortion politics seems to have GOP leaders flummoxed. Neiman told Thompson that the governor was within his rights to terminate the contracts and that an administrative appeal, not federal court, was the proper forum to challenge the termination. John Thune (R-N.D.), as he arrived at the Capitol on Tuesday. “We may have ball control on this.” The strategy is a familiar one, but not without its political and practical pitfalls.

Abortion foes say the videos show Planned Parenthood has violated federal prohibitions against profiting from fetal tissue sales or changing some abortion procedures to maximize the harvesting of fetuses’ organs. GOP leaders in the House have staged several votes on anti-abortion legislation, but the moves haven’t satisfied a handful of GOP hardliners who are insisting that the must-pass budget measure include language stripping taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood. The Republican bill would set criminal penalties of up to five years in prison for doctors who perform most abortions 20 weeks or more into pregnancy. Thompson questioned if a way to resolve the federal lawsuit would be for the state to send Planned Parenthood a new termination letter naming the cause. And Democratic opposition research groups have been shoring up their material on the former executive — some of it inherited from Boxer— officials at those groups told POLITICO.

James Lankford (R-Okla.), a former member of House leadership that’s been talking to House members. “You can spend a lot of time working on the strategy. McConnell’s spending measure would give the Obama administration much of what it asked for, while while saying no to a request to revive the Export-Import Bank. The showdown is reminiscent of a failed Cruz-led attempt two years ago to use a must-pass stopgap measure to try to block implementation of the health care law.

In Tuesday’s debate on late-term abortions, McConnell described the human features visible in fetal sonograms and said scientists say that fetuses can feel pain 20 weeks into development — an assertion that Democrats and many doctors contest. “We in this chamber are never going to agree completely on the abortion question,” McConnell said. “But we should at least be able to agree that if an unborn child has reached the point where he or she can feel pain, that child’s life deserves protection.” Democrats have noted that the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said fetal pain is unlikely until a pregnancy’s third trimester. Hanging over it all is the weakened political standing of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who is under fire from some tea party conservatives who say he is not tough enough in battling Obama. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a presidential candidate and sponsor of the legislation, said the U.S. is one of just seven countries allowing abortions after 20 weeks and said: “America needs to get out of this club.” Republicans hoped that simply allowing a vote on the bill — which Democrats would not allow when they controlled the Senate — would appeal to socially conservative voters and create campaign problems for Democratic senators from GOP-leaning states. Even though Boehner controls the majority, more than 30 lawmakers have said they would not agree to a compromise, depriving the speaker of needed votes — and forcing him to rely on Democrats to make up the difference.

While Fiorina is unlikely to be the nominee, many Democrats expect her to eventually reprise her summertime role as Clinton’s main antagonist when she becomes an attack dog for the eventual Republican standard-bearer — so there’s value in getting ready to rough her up. “She can still play an effective role as a surrogate in the general,” said one Washington Democrat who predicts the party’s machinery will eventually ramp up against her. By opposing the legislation and casting the battle as one over access to women’s health care, Democrats saw an opportunity to appeal to female and younger voters. After a federal judge questioned whether Louisiana could end the agreements without a reason, the state cited Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast’s $4.3 million settlement of false claims allegations in Texas as reason to kill its Louisiana Medicaid contract. Boehner has reached out before to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) to provide the votes needed to push tough legislation over the finish line, but this year he faces a challenge over his speakership by conservatives who have tried repeatedly to remove him from power. A clean CR will draw heavy fire from conservatives who are urging a confrontation over Planned Parenthood after a series of videos disclosed officials allegedly discussing sales of fetal body parts.

Chris Christie have called on Senate Republicans to change Senate rules to make it easier to move legislation past Democratic filibusters. “We appreciate all the good advice we’re getting from members of the House of Representatives and candidates for president about how to run the Senate,” McConnell said icily. “That will obviously be a decision we make ourselves.” Another issue, little noticed so far, is that delivery of food stamp benefits to the poor could be cut off next month. That has left the speaker in a no-win situation: Compromise with Pelosi and risk a challenge for his job, or stick with his weakened majority and risk a shutdown. Moreover, the threat of a veto from the White House has left conservatives to deride the antiabortion bills as show-votes that do little to accomplish their goals of ending the practices at Planned Parenthood. A Boehner loyalist, Representative Devin Nunes of California, said in an interview Monday that he and other House Republicans are urging Boehner to reject the hard-liners’ tactics. Under the bill blocked Tuesday, late abortions would be allowed for pregnant women whose lives are endangered or who are victims of rapes for which they’ve received counseling or medical treatment.

Doctors performing a permissible late-term abortion would have to try saving the fetus’ life if possible, including having a neonatal specialist present and hospitalizing the newborn. Forty-three states have barred abortions after specific stages of pregnancy, including 22 that do so after at least 20 weeks, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive-rights research group. And there’s no guarantee Cruz won’t fight McConnell tooth and nail, as he has done all year, though, at this point, he’d have to mount a herculean effort to disrupt McConnell’s government funding train.

Though GOP senators have been speaking with their House colleagues about the end game, the level of coordination is not sufficient to eliminate any fears of a shutdown.

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