If you’ve been holding out any hope that Congress might actually put up a fight against Planned Parenthood’s $528 million in federal funding, think again. The House of Representatives may be holding a vote on it after Labor Day, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has reiterated that that’s all we’re going to see:
The Senate Democrats have a big enough number to prevent us from doing things. They prevented us from doing any of the bills that appropriate money for the government, thereby forcing a negotiation when we go back in after Labor Day, which I’ll be engaged in with the administration and others to try to sort out how much we’re going to spend and where we’re going to spend it […]
We just don’t have the votes to get the outcome that we’d like. I would remind all of your viewers: The way you make a law in this country, the Congress has to pass it and the president has to sign it. The President has made it very clear he’s not going to sign any bill that includes defunding of Planned Parenthood, so that’s another issue that awaits a new President hopefully with a different point of view about Planned Parenthood.
And what happens if the next President doesn’t have a “different point of view about Planned Parenthood”? Will you and Speaker Boehner shrug and say, “Oh well, see you in another four years, pro-lifers”? Do you think your duty to represent your constituents’ values, fight for preborn Americans’ Fourteenth Amendment rights, and function as a check against the executive branch only apply when it’s politically easy to do so?
Probably, considering that McConnell has sabotaged other Republicans’ more serious efforts to defund, while Boehner has taken any possibility of risking even a partial government shutdown off the table and thinks we need an investigation to tell us whether an organization that slaughters babies for a living deserves involuntary contributions from the American people. (Oh, and for what it’s worth, StemExpress CEO Cate Dyer’s sister, Charlotte Ivancic, used to be Boehner’s health policy advisor.)
I’ll see McConnell’s civics lecture and raise him the Father of the Constitution. In Federalist 58, James Madison explains that the sole power to “propose” and “refuse” the “supplies requisite for the support of government” is central to the legislative branch’s role in the federal government’s system of checks and balances:
This power over the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.
As leader of one half of Congress, it is McConnell’s most important duty to sent boundaries for what the federal government will—and will not—spend. Contrary to what he and his donors may feel, he’s not there to churn out legislation by the truckload, but to fight. Sometimes that means risking negative press, getting the President angry at you, having to fight members of your own party, putting in longer hours, and investing effort, creativity, and stress into advancing a counter-narrative to make a case for what you’re doing.
As Kelsey Harkness laid out, a fruitless show vote on something we all know in advance Obama will veto isn’t his only option. Language defunding Planned Parenthood could be attached to must-pass legislation such as a budgetary continuing resolution. As Kristi Burton Brown has pointed out, it would actually be Obama’s fault for vetoing legislation that funds everything he wails that a shutdown would threaten except Planned Parenthood.
And as I’ve talked about before, previous shutdown fights only failed because Republicans didn’t pair them with concerted public-relations offensives to persuade the public what was at stake and who was really at fault. After all, in the 2013 ObamaCare fight, the GOP House repeatedly sent Harry Reid’s Senate numerous bills to fund everything. They had a perfectly intuitive argument to make that of course funding purposes A, B, and C shouldn’t be contingent on funding X, Y, or Z. And contrary to all the doomsday wailing, the shutdown didn’t hurt the GOP in the midterms after all.
Drawing a line in the sand at Planned Parenthood’s tax money is morally necessary, politically viable, and strategically doable. And as Ben Domenech notes, even if it ultimately failed, the fight would still force the media to actually mention the crimes that started it. There is no excuse for not taking this fight on—least of all from anyone purporting to be a leader.
Yet Mitch McConnell seems to think he can only be reasonably expected to do what everyone else is already okay with doing, or whatever is procedurally easiest… and still has the gall to whine that all his “progress in getting the Senate back to work” is “not noticed by more people.”