Mitch McConnell to conservatives: Look, we don't have the numbers in the Senate to defund Planned Parenthood

We do have the numbers to force a shutdown, but McConnell’s already ruled that out. I’m going to look on the bright side here: At least this guy’s trying to spare us another dismal episode of GOP failure theater. If we had a majority in the Senate that was prepared to dig in and have this fight on principle, no matter what the polls say, it’d be worth considering a shutdown. Obama might blink if it lasted long enough. Because we have the majority we have, there’s really no point. It’ll play out just as lefty Bill Scher says — after a few days of shuttered government, not only will Boehner and McConnell offer a clean continuing resolution in the name of ending the standoff but Democrats will increase their demands as a condition of voting for it, perhaps insisting that the GOP end sequestration as their price. We won’t gain anything and we might very well lose something.

Here’s your general telling you he doesn’t believe we can win this war. Even if you disagree, do you still welcome that war knowing that he’s in charge of it?

“We just don’t have the votes to get the outcome that we’d like,” McConnell said. “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 McConnell said that in order to really make the changes he envisions on regulations, Republicans need a nominee at the top of the ticket who can win purple states — rattling off a list of places where he also needs Republicans to win Senate contests to continue as majority leader in 2017.

“Whoever our nominee is is going to have to appeal in places like Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Florida, Colorado, Nevada — those states that tend to go back and forth,” McConnell said. “Looking at the polling data in those key states, I think people are ready to go in a different direction. We just have to nominate somebody that they find appealing.”

There’s not going to be a shutdown. But … could there, and should there, at least be a sustained game of “chicken” over a shutdown in the weeks before government funding runs out? It’d be hard to win that game now that McConnell’s running around telling the media that the GOP will swerve at the last second if need be, but there are political advantages to a little “chicken” now, writes Ben Domenech. Ted Cruz would benefit, of course, either by showing his clout to the base if he can pressure McConnell into a shutdown or crowing to the base that we need a real conservative as president to balance the RINOs in Congress if he can’t. Trump would benefit for the same reasons, and unlike Cruz, he could play pragmatist if a shutdown happened by calling for it to end after a few days. Pro-lifers would benefit from shutdown “chicken” too, claims Domenech, because it would force the media to do something it really doesn’t want to do:

The media loves to engage in shutdown watches – they think it reveals Republican anti-government nihilism at its worst, and they are typically gleeful about the possibilities of such fights. Except oddly enough, they aren’t talking much about this atom bomb that everyone sees tick tick ticking away on September 30th.
Why is that? Isn’t it obvious? For the media to play up this shutdown fight, as is their nature, they first have to explain what the controversy is all about. And that is the last thing they want to do. An explanation means giving pro-lifers a huge platform to message on Planned Parenthood. “Republicans consider shutting down government for some reason we have no idea why, maybe see paragraph 12 for a possible explanation” is the tone that most coverage of this issue has had thus far. In an actual shutdown scenario, that would have to change. Heaven forbid that Pope Francis mention it in a sentence that also talks about gays.

He’s more optimistic than I am. True, the media couldn’t avoid mentioning Planned Parenthood in writing about “shutdown chicken,” but they could sanitize the videos with appropriate jargon — “fetal tissue research,” “extraction,” etc etc. The left has a highly developed sense of euphemism when it comes to abortion; cutting open a baby’s face to slice out its brain while its heart is still beating would become “removing brain tissue for medical research.” If for no other reason, I welcome “shutdown chicken” as a test of whether I’m right about that or whether I’m being too cynical. I’d also like to settle the intramural debate on the right over Planned Parenthood’s relatively high favorable rating across a number of polls. Some conservatives think that’s mainly a function of poor media coverage. Force the public to confront what PP’s really doing in its chop shop, they say, and those numbers will shift inevitably. I, the eternal eeyore, think those people are mostly kidding themselves. The numbers will shift a bit — even on abortion, there are bound to be fencesitters whose consciences can be shocked — but I suspect most on both sides already have a sense of what goes on behind clinic walls and they’ve made peace with their position about it. Here’s what Quinnipiac found the other day, in fact:


Their favorable rating is net positive; the idea of cutting off taxpayer funds is net negative. When you ask people if they’d support or oppose shutting down the government “over differences about federal government funding to Planned Parenthood,” the bottom drops out: Just 22 percent say yes versus 69 percent who say no. Among Republicans, the split is 37/53, and don’t think McConnell isn’t making sure that his caucus knows that. Refine the question further to ask which party will be blamed for a shutdown and, of course, the GOP gets the lion’s share, 41 percent versus 33 percent. But then, this is why Domenech is imagining “shutdown chicken,” not an actual shutdown. Posing a credible threat of a shutdown, even if that threat is secretly empty, could at least provide a public service by giving voters a crash course on what Planned Parenthood really does. Too bad McConnell’s already broadcast the emptiness of the threat to everyone, huh? See now why Trump’s boasting about what a hard-ass negotiator he is plays so well among Republicans?

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