House Republican leaders gave conservative lawmakers the hard sell Tuesday on two anti-abortion bills that will get a vote this week, hoping the measures will appease members whose demand to end federal funding of Planned Parenthood threatens a government shutdown at the end of the month.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s office put out a strongly worded statement condemning Planned Parenthood for selling fetal body parts, vowing to continue a congressional probe of the organization and touting the two anti-abortion bills.
“Whether or not anything illegal was done, what is happening is wrong, and the callousness by which babies are killed and their organs are harvested for scientific research is the definition of barbarism,” Mr. McCarthy’s office said in the statement. “No American should ever be forced to support such an organization with their tax dollars.”
Planned Parenthood became the epicenter of the abortion debate after a series of undercover videos exposed what critics said was the group’s executives making deals to sell organs harvested from aborted fetuses. The most recent of the videos was released Tuesday morning.
Planned Parenthood officials contend the videos, made by an anti-abortion research group, have been selectively edited to make false claims about its operations and its handling of fetal tissue.
Facing a Sept. 30 deadline to pass a stopgap spending bill to keep the government open, Republican leaders are scrambling to deal with the Planned Parenthood funding issue and avoid a government shutdown. They are convinced the GOP would be blamed for a shutdown, as occurred in 2013 when the government closed for 16 days when Republicans attempted to defund Obamacare.
“Here is my concern. I’m pro-life. I’m for advancing the pro-life agenda. If the pro-life agenda becomes tarnished by being associated with a shutdown because of some bad tactical decision, then I think that is a step backward rather than a step forward,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, Texas Republican.
The bills up for a vote this week in the House would put a one-year moratorium on federal funding for Planned Parenthood and impose criminal penalties on abortion doctors who fail to take life-saving measures for babies who survive abortion procedures. But the legislation falls short of eliminating the $500 million in federal funding that Planned Parenthood pockets yearly for its women’s health services that are not supposed to include abortions.
The two measures are expected to pass the Republican-run House but will face an uphill battle in the Senate, where Republicans are in the majority but need Democratic votes to get the 60 votes required for a bill to survive.
That will put House Republicans back at square one with Planned Parenthood funding dominating the debate over a stopgap spending bill.
About 50 House Republicans led by the conservative House Freedom Caucus are refusing to back any spending bills that include money for Planned Parenthood.
House Democratic leaders have vowed that their members would force a shutdown to protect federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
As he looks for looks to avoid a shutdown, House Speaker John Boehner, Ohio Republican, again finds himself at odds with conservative lawmakers of his own caucus who have been deeply disappointed by his dealmaking with Democrats and his unwillingness to take on Mr. Obama.
The dissatisfaction with Mr. Boehner came to a head in July, when Rep. Mark Meadows, a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, entered a motion to remove him or “vacate the chair.” The procedural move to oust Mr. Boehner never reached a vote, but the episode provided the speaker a sobering warning about grumblings in the ranks.