House Republican leaders may have discovered a budget maneuver that would allow them to avoid a government shutdown and cut off funds for Planned Parenthood, thereby closing a rift among rank-and- file members that has threated to oust Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).
The idea, floated earlier this week by House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), would see lawmakers employ little-known budget reconciliation rules to zero out the roughly $500 million in federal dollars that goes to Planned Parenthood.
“There are a lot of steps in this process,” Boehner said Thursday at a press conference after the GOP conference. “You will see a lot of steps in the coming weeks, and certainly reconciliation is a distinct possibility as well.”
Reconciliation is an attractive option for Republican leaders who are torn between worrying their party will be blamed for shuttering the government, and appeasing hardliners who are outraged over a series of secretly recorded videos that showed Planned Parenthood officials discussing selling body parts from aborted fetuses.
Reconciliation requires only a simple majority to pass the Senate, meaning Democrats can’t filibuster a measure used under the tactic. It also can only be used for one budget resolution each year in the Senate. Democrats actually employed budget reconciliation in 2010 to pass Obamacare.
In another bid to show how serious they are about avoiding a shutdown, the GOP-controlled House voted Thursday to allow leaders to invoke “martial law.” The move lets leaders bring a spending bill aimed at avoiding a shutdown to the floor the same day it clears the House Rules Committee, skipping the usual one-day wait to do so.
Together, the actions indicate Boehner and fellow Republicans realize how little time is left on the clock before the fiscal year ends on October 1.
As the GOP gropes for a solution that appeases their right flank, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA) Democrats would sustain President Obama’s veto if Republican-backed legislation to defund Planned Parenthood ever reached his desk.
“Yes, we could sustain the veto,” Pelosi said during a press briefing on Capitol Hill
Republicans should take the California Democrat at her word. In August she predicted, correctly, that House Democrats had the votes to uphold an Obama veto of a resolution against the Iran nuclear deal.
Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) visited the White House to strategize over how to proceed on the budget.
After the meeting, the duo repeated their stance that Congress should pass a continuing resolution with no policy riders to keep the government’s doors open and give lawmakers extra breathing room to resolve the budget standoff.