Shutdown coming? Ryan won't rule out rider to defund Planned Parenthood in next funding bill

The government runs out of money on December 11th and the most pro-abortion president in history has vowed not to sign any bills that make funding the government contingent upon defunding Planned Parenthood. Surely this is the moment for a Republican Speaker to crap away any leverage he might have by vowing to prevent a shutdown at all costs, right?

Not this time.

“This is the legislative branch and the power of the purse rests within the legislative branch and we fully expect that we’re going to exercise that power,” Ryan told reporters Tuesday morning.

That statement marks a break with Ryan’s predecessor, John Boehner, who developed a habit of pledging not to pass funding bills that would risk a government shutdown by provoking a presidential veto. The new, firmer stance could potentially put Ryan at odds with Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), who has also sworn to avoid government shutdowns. But it could also help Ryan mollify the conservative backbenchers who have accused GOP leaders of preemptively surrendering to Obama.

One of the demands the Freedom Caucus made of Ryan was for a return to regular order, i.e. letting bills originate in committee and amending them as the majority desires instead of having the Speaker’s office drop a prefab bill on the conference at the last second and asking them to approve it as is. If Ryan meets that demand, he could be stuck: The House’s GOP majority could vote to add a rider to a funding bill, all but guaranteeing a Democratic filibuster in the Senate. If he doesn’t meet that demand, though, he could also be stuck. It’d be a bad start to his Speakership if he blinked at a shutdown fight over a bill that’s highly popular with cultural conservatives.

Unless, that is, the House’s conservatives cut him some slack on it. Hmmmm.

A few dozen hardline conservatives were ready to shut down the government last month over Planned Parenthood. But after new Speaker Paul Ryan remarked over the weekend that defunding the group probably isn’t going to happen, several of the conservative firebrands greeted the remark with a shrug…

“We’re absolutely committed to it,” said Rep. Trent Franks, one of the most outspoken critics of Planned Parenthood. “I think Paul is as committed to protecting the unborn….as much of any of us. The problem is he is as capable as any of us at mathematical addition and subtraction.”…

Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) said as long as Ryan gives Republicans a chance during committee votes to attempt and defund the health care organization, the Wisconsin Republican won’t draw the ire of hardliners.

In theory, a clean process here might solve Ryan’s political problem. If he lets conservatives amend the funding bill to attach a rider defunding Planned Parenthood and brings it to a vote, maybe they’ll reward him by voting for a clean bill once the Senate shoots down the first one. But then, maybe not. One of the main knocks on Boehner was that he wasn’t willing to play chicken with Obama by tolerating a shutdown apart from the brief one in 2013. If conservatives think they can win a political fight with O over PP and the sting videos, why not demand that Ryan force a shutdown and see how that shakes out? Is it because they … don’t think they would win that battle? Or is it because they know as well as Ryan does that a shutdown in the middle of a presidential campaign could be a big problem for the nominee next fall?

Or is it because Ryan’s in the middle of making other concessions that will make the Freedom Caucus happy enough that they won’t want to go to war with him (yet)?

In his first extended meeting with House Republicans, Ryan made clear that he would make some changes, according to lawmakers present. One of those changes: He would alter the makeup of the House Steering Committee before Thanksgiving — a key demand of conservatives who want more say in the decision-making process. That panel, typically dominated by the speaker’s office, makes important decisions on assigning members to plum committee spots, but Ryan has privately said he would install a more diverse group of members to help dole out those assignments.

Here’s Ryan this morning at his first presser as Speaker suggesting that nothing is off the table and this weekend on CNN making it sound like he’s awfully reluctant to make any obviously futile moves against Planned Parenthood. Curious to see how this circle will be squared.

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