New Boehner strategy: Defund Planned Parenthood through reconciliation process

Why not? It worked for ObamaCare, didn’t it? The Hill reports that Speaker John Boehner’s latest strategy to thread the needle of demands to defund Planned Parenthood and yet avoid a government shutdown will take a page from the Harry Reid/Nancy Pelosi playbook:

Top House Republicans hope to convince their members to keep the government open by using a fast-track process known as reconciliation to try to defund Planned Parenthood.

House Republican leaders are planning to target Planned Parenthood’s funding by immediately drafting a fast-track reconciliation bill, according to a senior House GOP aide.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his lieutenants will lay out their strategy at a closed-door conference meeting on Friday.

While the plan would mean supporting a short-term bill introduced in the Senate on Thursday to keep the government open through Dec. 11, it could also lead to legislation blocking money for Planned Parenthood hitting President Obama’s desk.

The benefit to using reconciliation is that it can’t be filibustered. It gets a floor vote in the Senate no matter what Democrats do. Not only that, but there is a bit of poetic justice in using that device to cut funding from Planned Parenthood, after having it used against Republicans to shove ObamaCare down their throats — and the nation’s — in 2010.

There are, however, two significant downsides. In order to use this strategy, conservatives in the House will have to vote for a continuing resolution that will de facto extend funding for Planned Parenthood into December. The Hill’s reporters say that may be a “bridge too far” for the conservative caucus, who don’t want to cast a vote like that and have it on their records. Boehner might have enough Republicans to pass a CR anyway, or get enough Democrats on board to make up the difference, although the latter may be a stretch. Democrats may want to stand back and let Republicans take the fall for a shutdown in October rather than December, when media attention may be diluted by the holiday season. (Worth noting: Virginia voters have their state legislative elections this November, and a shutdown will not play well with voters in the northern part of the state.)

The second problem is that none of these strategies will succeed, at least not in defunding Planned Parenthood. This strategy will succeed in forcing Barack Obama to veto a bill that defunds the organization, but he’s not going to sign a bill or a budget that cuts off those funds in any case. The public support for the defunding effort is remarkably low, which means that the politics of this fight will damage Republicans in the short run more than it will Obama. Plus, this assumes that a defunding bill can get a majority in the Senate, which is less certain than it may have looked at the beginning of this week.

It does, at least, kick that can down the road. It also gives conservatives a chance to get a floor vote in the Senate on defunding itself, which they have been denied so far. Is that enough to get them to give this a shot? We’ll soon see, but at some point Republicans will have to take a stand on either Planned Parenthood or budget caps with Obama, who’s declared he’ll veto budgets that don’t go his way on either. Whether that takes place in October or December may be of small matter, but with Republican voters looking outside the party for a fighter, the GOP leadership puts this fight off at its own peril.

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