WASHINGTON — House GOP leaders have summoned their divided conference for a make-or-break discussion on how to fight taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood without having the battle lead to a government shutdown next week.
In the wake of moves by the Senate's top Republican to advance a stopgap spending bill free of the dispute over Planned Parenthood, House GOP leaders may be ready to plot the same course.
Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and his leadership team have for some time been urging lawmakers to consider alternatives to using a must-pass government-wide funding bill as a means to carry the battle against Planned Parenthood to President Barack Obama. They've met resistance from tea party Republicans and outside groups that advocated for the 2013 partial government shutdown over implementation of Obama's health care law.
Friday's meeting is likely to center on immediate action to use a special filibuster-proof budget bill to send legislation defunding Planned Parenthood to Obama's desk for the first time — rather than a futile bid to attach the anti-Planned Parenthood measure to a stopgap spending bill. The temporary measure is needed to avoid a shutdown at midnight on Wednesday. It would fund the government through Dec. 11.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., offered his bipartisan measure following a decisive vote blocking a GOP-backed bill that would have stripped Planned Parenthood of its taxpayer funding while keeping the government running through Dec. 11.
The vote was 52-47 against the measure, 13 votes shy of the 60 required to overcome a filibuster led by Democrats. Eight Republicans, several of them supporters of abortion rights, voted with 42 Democrats and two independents.
McConnell has for almost a year promised that Republicans controlling Congress won't repeat the government shutdown of two years ago.
The White House signaled that Obama would sign the measure, called a continuing resolution or CR, into law — if the House steps aside from the fight tea party Republicans want over "defunding" Planned Parenthood.
"I think we all know we're going to have a clean CR," said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. "The House is going to figure out what the House is going to do but we can't shut down the government."
Planned Parenthood has long been a target for Republicans, but the release of secretly recorded videos that raised questions about its handling of fetal tissue provided to scientific researchers has infuriated anti-abortion Republicans and added urgency to their efforts against the group. The group says it is doing nothing wrong and isn't violating federal law against profiting from such practices.
The Senate's vote, and the bipartisan measure that followed, cranks up the pressure on the GOP-controlled House. There, GOP leaders have been stymied in their hopes to pass a continuing resolution.
Boehner has only shaky control over his fractious caucus, and some tea party Republicans are adamant about using the must-pass measure to carry provisions to defund Planned Parenthood, even at the risk of a partial government shutdown.
McConnell scheduled a vote on the bipartisan measure for Monday night.
Sending such a measure to the GOP-controlled House two days before a potential shutdown seems aimed at giving Republican leaders in the House the push needed to roll over recalcitrant tea partyers opposed to a bill that fails to take on Planned Parenthood. Conservative hard-liners including Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, were summoned to Boehner's suite but would not comment on his plans.
A GOP leadership aide, requiring anonymity to speak because of ongoing private discussions, said GOP leaders were considering immediately crafting a separate filibuster-proof budget measure. It would permit Republicans to deliver to Obama a measure to take away almost $500 million a year in taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood, most of which goes to provide health services to the poor via the Medicaid program. The measure also contains $700 million in emergency funding to fight Western wildfires.
Associated Press writers Alan Fram, Nancy Benac and Stephen Ohlemacher contributed to this report.