- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Congress cleared a stopgap spending bill Wednesday to keep the government open into the new fiscal year, staving off a federal shutdown but cuing up another Christmastime showdown unless Congress can strike a long-term spending deal with the White House.

The bill, which earned the support of all Democrats but deeply cleaved the GOP, funds basic government operations through Dec. 11. It does not take away money from Planned Parenthood, dashing the hopes of conservatives who’d argued a recent series of undercover videos exposed conduct that should have made the organization lose its funding.

“I am disappointed that despite the gruesome and incontrovertible video evidence of Planned Parenthood’s activities, the president got his way and nothing changed,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican. “Taxpayers are tired of being treated this way, and they are fed up with politics as usual.”

The bill is a disappointment for GOP leaders, who had hoped to tackle the annual spending process through “regular order,” passing the dozen individual bills that fund most government operations.

But an internal Republican fight in the House and Democratic filibusters in the Senate halted those plans, forcing all sides to agree to yet another stopgap bill.

GOP leaders said they’ve begun talks with President Obama to try to agree to a top spending number, which would make writing the dozen bills much easier. But the White House said Wednesday Republicans need to instead talk with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

“If Republicans in Congress are interested in negotiations, then they should walk over to Senator Reid’s office and to Leader Pelosi’s office and accept their invitation to engage in bipartisan negotiations,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.

Republican leaders were happy that they managed to avoid a repeat of 2013, when conservatives forced Congress to fight over Obamacare funding, prompting a stalemate that led to a 16-day partial government shutdown.

House Speaker John A. Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had vowed no repeats of that incident.

“We’re working to change the culture around here,” Mr. McConnell said.

But Planned Parenthood tested that, and Mr. McConnell was forced to hold a vote last week on a bill that would have funded government while shifting money from the organization to other women’s health clinics. That effort was blocked by a Democratic-led filibuster.

GOP leaders said their hands were tied at that point.

“Despite widespread outrage at these grisly practices, Senate Democrats continue to force taxpayers to fund organizations that exhibit a fundamental disregard for life,” said Mr. Boehner, who announced his retirement from Congress last week, as he faced pressure over the issue.

Conservatives said Republican leaders should have fought harder, and shouldn’t have vowed to keep the government open no matter what. They said that amounted to an early surrender.

“Republican leadership chose to abandon its constitutional power of the purse and to fund 100 percent of President Obama’s failed agenda. This was a mistake, and it’s why people are so frustrated with Washington,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican who is running for president.

“With Speaker Boehner’s resignation, we have a real opportunity for new leadership in Washington … that actually leads.”

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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