Once again GOP lawmakers are threatening to shut down the government – this time, over Planned Parenthood. Specifically, they want to see the organization, which primarily provides health care services to low-income women, defunded and the money given over to “federally approved community health centers” that do not offer abortion services (less than 3% of Planned Parenthood services involve the termination of pregnancies). These latest threats come just as a spending bill is making its way on to the floor. The bill must be approved by October 1st, or the federal government will once again run out of the funding it needs in order to stay in operation. If House Republicans are unable to force the passage of legislation to defund Planned Parenthood, we can all expect a replay of the government shutdown of October 2013 over Obamacare.
So far, nearly 30 GOP Representatives have signed a letter demanding that House Speaker John Boehner and the Republican leadership take action to block any further funding for Planned Parenthood. This has put Boehner in an awkward position. With that many lawmakers of his own party against him on this issue, the Speaker would be unable to put forward a “stopgap” bill to keep the government running. It could also be a problem for the party as a whole; a high-profile government shutdown at this point could be a disaster for the GOP as their candidates prepare for the 2016 election.
Of course, the usual strategy for the GOP is to blame the opposition. GOP Representative James Jordan of Ohio has accused the Obama Administration of wanting to take money away from the military and veterans in order to fund Planned Parenthood. It’s not clear where Jordan got this idea, unless (as is usual for the GOP), he is simply making it up. Other GOP members of Congress are more realistic, however. Another Republican Representative, Charles Dent of Pennsylvania, told The Hill that “[Congress has] a great capacity to screw up,” adding that he anticipates “another messy session.”
The current attacks on Planned Parenthood started earlier this summer with the release of a series of video clips. Those clips showed what appeared to be discussions about “selling baby parts.” Despite investigations and inquiries, however, there has been no evidence of any wrongdoing on Planned Parenthood’s part. Nonetheless, the organization and its clinics have become the latest GOP “whipping boy” in the ongoing Republican quest to deflect attention from real issues, such as growing poverty and crumbling infrastructure.
GOP threats of government shutdowns are hardly newsworthy anymore. Like spoiled toddlers who scream and rant if they don’t get their way, Republican lawmakers have decided that the only way to shove their agenda down America’s throat is to make everyone suffer by shutting down the government until we’ve all had enough.
There are several bills being put forward to end Planned Parenthood funding. However, even if one should pass in the House, the likelihood of such a bill surviving in the Senate is slim to none. Here, the GOP would find itself hoist by its own petard, since the rules were made when the Democrats were in control, and it makes it possible for the minority party to hold a filibuster. And, of course, there is the specter of voters who would hold the GOP responsible when their Social Security checks and other earned benefits not received because they shut down government operations.
In any event, chances are that once the elections are over, Planned Parenthood will cease to be an issue at all, since candidates will be past the need for political theater.
Watch Thom Hartmann discuss this issue: