Republicans Say Enough With the Government-Shutdown Talk Already

Many doubt the government would really shut down over Planned Parenthood funding.

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 09: U.S. Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (3rd L), Senate Minority Whip Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) (R), Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), and Sen. John Thune (R-SD), speak to members of the media after the Senate Republican Policy Luncheon at the Capitol December 9, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The Senate Republican leadership responded to a report on CIA's use of torture conducted by the Senate Intelligence Committee where were released today.
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Caitlin Owens and Dylan Scott
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Caitlin Owens and Dylan Scott
July 30, 2015, 11:26 a.m.

While a hand­ful of con­ser­vat­ives are hanker­ing for a show­down in Septem­ber over Planned Par­ent­hood fund­ing, many prom­in­ent Re­pub­lic­ans are dis­miss­ing the pos­sib­il­ity that the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment could shut down over the or­gan­iz­a­tion’s stream of fed­er­al dol­lars.

The GOP is liv­id over re­cently re­leased sting videos that show Planned Par­ent­hood of­fi­cials al­legedly dis­cuss­ing the sale of fetal tis­sue. The Sen­ate will try next week to move for­ward on a stand-alone meas­ure to de­fund the group and re­dir­ect the money to com­munity health cen­ters, though it is ex­pec­ted to fail in the face of Demo­crat­ic op­pos­i­tion.

But with memor­ies of the 2013 gov­ern­ment shut­down fresh in many of their minds, few Re­pub­lic­ans seem to think it’s worth clos­ing down the gov­ern­ment over the is­sue.

“No. Not over this,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, a mem­ber of Sen­ate lead­er­ship and chair of the Ap­pro­pri­ations sub­com­mit­tee that over­sees health care, when asked if the gov­ern­ment could shut down over the con­tro­versy.

That doesn’t mean Blunt wants the is­sue to go away. “I think it’ll be an on­go­ing top­ic for dis­cus­sion un­til Planned Par­ent­hood comes up with a much bet­ter ex­plan­a­tion for their con­duct than they have so far,” he said.

In the House, a group of 18 Re­pub­lic­ans sent a let­ter Wed­nes­day to their lead­er­ship say­ing that they would not vote for a gov­ern­ment spend­ing bill that con­tin­ued to fund Planned Par­ent­hood.

“It would lead to a fight, no ques­tion about that,” said Rep. Phil Roe, chair­man of the GOP Doc­tors Caucus. “There’s no doubt that it would, but I think this is a fight worth hav­ing.

“I’d be will­ing to shut the gov­ern­ment down over hu­man life,” he said, adding that he does not fore­see a shut­down ac­tu­ally hap­pen­ing.

But there was al­ways likely to be a con­tin­gent of Far-Right Re­pub­lic­ans who wouldn’t sup­port whatever spend­ing bill lead­er­ship put for­ward. It is much more doubt­ful that GOP lead­ers would be will­ing to pick a fight with Sen­ate Demo­crats and Pres­id­ent Obama over the is­sue and risk a shut­down.

“I don’t think to the point that it will stop a CR,” said Rep. Tom Cole, who chairs the House Ap­pro­pri­ations sub­com­mit­tee for health and is a close ally of Speak­er John Boehner, when asked if the Planned Par­ent­hood is­sue could sty­mie the spend­ing bill. Con­gress is ex­pec­ted to pass a short-term con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion be­fore the Sept. 30 dead­line.

“Look, I’m very sym­path­et­ic to my col­leagues,” Cole said, not­ing that his pan­el’s Ap­pro­pri­ations bill had cut all fund­ing for a fed­er­al pro­gram that fun­nels money to­ward Planned Par­ent­hood. “But I don’t be­lieve in shut­ting down gov­ern­ment and I don’t be­lieve in black­mail­ing your lead­er­ship.

“A lot of these threats are from people who won’t vote for the CR or fi­nal deal any­way, so they don’t carry too much cred­ib­il­ity,” he ad­ded. “But we should be work­ing to­ward what they’re try­ing to do. I just don’t be­lieve in gov­ern­ment shut­downs as the vehicle to do it.”

Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans in par­tic­u­lar swept in­to power last year with a prom­ise to make Con­gress more func­tion­al. Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell has said on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions that the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment would not shut down or de­fault on its debt un­der his lead­er­ship.

“Those are the com­mit­ments that we made,” said Sen. John Bar­rasso, the No. 4 Re­pub­lic­an, on Thursday.

Even those work­ing on the up­per cham­ber’s de­fund meas­ure balked at the no­tion of shut­ting down the gov­ern­ment to cut Planned Par­ent­hood money.

“I’m hop­ing to avoid that,” said Sen. Joni Ernst, who led the work­ing group that pro­duced the bill. “I don’t want to see the gov­ern­ment shut down. I’m not even go­ing to talk about that.”

“I’m not try­ing to risk a shut­down. That’s not what I’m try­ing to do,” said Sen. James Lank­ford of Ok­lahoma, an­oth­er mem­ber of the work­ing group.

That sen­ti­ment seemed to per­vade much of the GOP con­fer­ence.

“I’m go­ing to want to make sure that we keep the gov­ern­ment fun­ded,” said Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hamp­shire.

Alex Rogers contributed to this article.
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