The White House described undercover videos of Planned Parenthood officials selling fetal tissue as “fraudulent” Thursday and said President Obama will reject efforts to strip federal funding from the organization, setting up yet another potential shutdown showdown for September.
Senators will vote early next week on a bill to defund the organization, though that’s likely to fail. But some Republicans are already vowing to try to use the annual spending deadline of Sept. 30 to force the issue, saying they won’t vote for any spending bills that include money for Planned Parenthood.
Congressional Democrats said they’ll block any bills that remove money for the organization, and with the White House rising to defend Planned Parenthood, the stalemate could result in another showdown similar to the 2013 fight over Obamacare that left the government shuttered for more than two weeks.
“Democrats will unite against it. This is a Republican path to shutdown,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, insisting the GOP will bear the blame.
The series of undercover videos has catapulted Planned Parenthood back to the top of the news, with a fourth video Thursday from the Center for Medical Progress showing Dr. Savita Ginde, who was medical director of a Planned Parenthood branch in Denver.
The group says Planned Parenthood is violating the law by selling aborted fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood has denied wrongdoing, and the White House rose to its defense Thursday with press secretary Josh Earnest calling the videos misleading because they were likely heavily edited.
“There’s ample reason to think that this is merely the tried-and-true tactic that we have seen from extremists on the right to edit this video and selectively release an edited version of the video that grossly distorts the position of the person who is actually speaking,” he said.
He added, “Based on the essentially fraudulent way in which these videos have been released, there’s not a lot of evidence right now that Planned Parenthood hasn’t lived up to” its ethical standards.
CMP’s David Daleiden said that was a poor attempt to excuse indefensible behavior.
“The four video reports we have released so far are undeniable to anyone who watches them and they prove that Planned Parenthood is engaged in a gruesome and inhuman enterprise. One would think the reaction would be to stop forcing hard working Americans to pay for this enterprise — isn’t there a better way to spend the American people’s money than to give half a billion a year to an organization engaged in selling aborted baby body parts?” Mr. Daleiden said in a statement Friday morning.
White House officials stopped short of saying Mr. Obama would veto a measure to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding, but Mr. Earnest said the president won’t allow such a move.
“It’s an effort that we oppose,” he said. “I know there has been an effort on the part of some Republicans to try to play politics with some selectively edited videos. This is a tactic we have seen used before.”
The videos have stirred conservative ire, however, with lawmakers filing a number of measures to try to halt federal funds, which total about $500 million a year, that flow to the organization.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has set up a vote Monday on a bill that would redirect that money to community health centers.
Democrats are expected to filibuster the bill, saying it would hurt women’s health because Planned Parenthood provides many services other than abortions.
But Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, said by shifting the money to other community health centers, the GOP bill actually increases care.
“In my state alone there are almost eight times more community centers that could provide these primary care services to women than there are Planned Parenthood outlets,” he said. “So this will actually increase access to primary care for women while defunding Planned Parenthood’s abortion practice.”
Federal law already generally prohibits taxpayers’ money going to pay for abortions, but Republicans argue the $500 million Planned Parenthood gets for other services all ends up supporting the organization.
Democrats are expected to filibuster Monday to block the bill, and Mr. McConnell has already signaled he will quickly move on if Democrats are successful.
That would push the fight into the fall and up against a Sept. 30 deadline for funding the government for fiscal year 2016.
With Democrats filibustering to block the spending bills in the Senate, and with House Republicans stymied by their own internal debates, all sides are expecting the need for a stopgap bill, known as a “continuing resolution,” or CR, that would keep basic operations going at 2015 levels.
But some Republicans have said they should make sure to include language specifically denying Planned Parenthood any money in that bill — just as the GOP tried to do in 2013 with Obamacare, and as it tried to do on the Homeland Security spending bill earlier this year, in a fight over the president’s temporary deportation amnesty policy.
Eighteen Republicans signed a letter to House GOP leaders this week saying they’ll draw a line over the fight.
“I vehemently urge House Republican leadership to use every available tool to strip this organization of any and all taxpayer funds and take measures to prevent the group from receiving taxpayer dollars in the future,” said Rep. Mick Mulvaney, a South Carolina Republican who is leading the effort. “Furthermore, we will not support any funding measure that provides taxpayer dollars for this organization.”
The issue is already infecting the 2016 campaigns.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrats’ presidential front-runner, has called the videos “disturbing,” but said she opposes stripping funding from Planned Parenthood.
At the White House, meanwhile, Mr. Obama is following the news coverage of videos, Mr. Earnest said, but it’s unclear whether Mr. Obama has seen any of them himself.
Asked how he could judge the videos “fraudulent” without having seen them, Mr. Earnest said he was agreeing with Planned Parenthood’s characterization of the undercover recordings.
“I’m certainly not the only person to arrive at this conclusion,” he said. “There are a number of others who have taken a look at those videos and raised significant doubts about their authenticity based on the way that they were edited. … Many, many people who have taken a look at this situation have arrived at the same conclusion and described the videos the same way that I have.”