In just 12 days, current funding for the federal government will run out, raising the very real prospect of another Republican shutdown. With so little time remaining, one is tempted to assume that lawmakers are scrambling to find a constructive solution.
Those assumptions would be wrong. MSNBC’s Irin Carmon reported on how the GOP-led House spent its morning.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed on Friday the Defund Planned Parenthood Act, 248-177. The bill strips the women’s health provider of its funding for contraception, pap smears, and testing for sexually-transmitted infections, unless it stops performing abortions.President Barack Obama has vowed to veto the bill, setting the stage for a possible government shutdown. Some congressional Republicans have vowed not to vote for any budget that includes funding for the organization.
The final roll call on the bill to defund Planned Parenthood is online here. Note, the vote largely fell along partisan lines, but not completely – three Republicans voted with the Democratic minority, while two Dems voted with the majority. The vote on the measure was immediately followed by another vote on a related bill, which would “impose criminal penalties on doctors who do not try to save a baby who ‘survives an abortion,’” which passed by a similar margin.
So, what happens now? I’m glad you asked.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House GOP leaders saw these votes as a way to placate their own far-right members. It was the leadership’s way of saying, in effect, “You want to defund Planned Parenthood? Fine. Here’s a bill on which you can express your intention to do exactly that.”
As a practical matter, it was a gambit to help conservative lawmakers get this out of their system before the real work begins.
The bills will now go to the Senate, where they are all but certain to die. In the unlikely event that the bills clear the upper chamber, they’d then go to the White House, where President Obama has already said he will veto them.
If it sounds as if the House, facing a looming shutdown deadline, wasted a day of work passing two anti-abortion bills that will inevitably fail, that’s because it did. House Republican leaders knew this all along, of course, but scheduled the votes anyway to make GOP members feel better.
The next step is the more serious one. Republican leaders in both chambers are going to ask their members to pass a temporary, stop-gap spending bill – called a “continuing resolution” – that maintains Planned Parenthood funding, but prevents a shutdown.
And quite a few GOP members are going to say, “No.” Today’s attempt at pacifying those House Republicans will not work, because they don’t want to say they voted to cut off funds for Planned Parenthood, they want to actually cut off funds for Planned Parenthood – and they’ll accept nothing short of their demands.
All of which leaves us with an unfortunate truth: today’s theatrics, intended to please everyone, satisfied no one, and brought us one step closer to a shutdown that appears increasingly unavoidable.
Disclosure: My wife works for Planned Parenthood, but she played no role in this piece.