WASHINGTON — The Senate’s top Republican moved swiftly to avoid a government shutdown in six days, pushing legislation that would keep agencies operating without a contentious fight over money for Planned Parenthood.
The action of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R–Ky., followed a decisive Senate vote blocking a bill that would have stripped Planned Parenthood of its taxpayer funding while keeping the government running through Dec. 11.
The vote was 47-52, falling short of a majority and well shy of the 60 votes required to overcome a filibuster led by Democrats. Eight Republicans, several of whom support abortion rights, voted with 42 Democrats and two independents to kill the measure.
McConnell immediately offered a bipartisan stopgap spending bill free of the Planned Parenthood dispute that’s expected to easily clear the Senate next week by a wide bipartisan margin. He has for almost a year promised that Republicans controlling Congress won’t repeat the government shutdown of two years ago.
In the House, GOP leaders called a meeting of their fractious rank and file for Friday morning to discuss whether to accept the Senate’s move or reject it at the risk that continuing the fight over Planned Parenthood would lead to a government shutdown.
The White House signaled President Barack Obama would sign the measure, called a continuing resolution, 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, using congressional code. “The House is going to figure out what the House is going to do but we can’t shut down the government.”
Speaking at the White House, Obama reminded Congress of the need to keep the government open.
Planned Parenthood has long been targeted by Republicans, but their efforts have intensified after the release of secretly recorded videos that raised questions about its handling of fetal tissue provided to scientific researchers.
The group says it is doing nothing wrong and isn’t profiting from such practices in violation of federal law.
The vote to block the stopgap spending bill was widely expected. And on Thursday, the White House issued a statement that Obama would veto it in any event, arguing that it “would limit access to health care for women, men, and families across the nation, and disproportionately impact low-income individuals.”
The Senate’s vote, and the bipartisan measure that followed, cranks up the pressure on the GOP-controlled House.
House Speaker John Boehner, R–Ohio, has only shaky control over his fractious caucus, and 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.