The political clash over budget legislation that would strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding isn’t going away any time soon and Democrats, including the Obama administration, seem fine with that for now.
Undercover videos that showed Planned Parenthood officials discussing the prices for fetal body parts and tissue, as well as grisly footage inside of one of the organization’s clinics where abortions are performed, have dominated Washington all week.
Rather than shy away from a decisive fight over one of the most hot-button social issues in the country, Democrats have embraced the challenge, seeing it as another opportunity to paint the GOP as too extreme to govern.
The minority party launched similar accusations last month during the debate over an amendment to a major Interior Department spending bill allowing the Confederate flag to be displayed in certain federal cemeteries and park gift shops.
Still, some in the GOP are looking forward to the fight. The Washington Post reported that anti-abortion group behind the videos believes they have changed the national conversation. Politically, The Post wrote, “At the Friday conference in Illinois, Planned Parenthood was discussed as an issue that could win over black voters and millennials.”
That same day, White House press secretary Josh Earnest removed all doubt about what action President Obama would take should any spending bill that eliminates the $528 million in government dollars Planned Parenthood receives wound up on his desk.
“What we have indicated in the past continues to be true today, that we have routinely opposed the inclusion of ideologically-driven riders in the budget process,” Earnest told reporters during a briefing.
“And certainly a rider that would on a wholesale basis defund Planned Parenthood, which is the proposal of some Republicans in the House, is certainly something that would draw a presidential veto,” he added.
A day earlier Earnest had stopped short of issuing a veto threat for such legislation.
The Senate is expected to vote Monday on a standalone measure by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) that would end federal funding for the agency, which has been a GOP political target for years.
The bill is unlikely to overcome Democratic objections, let alone a presidential veto.
That has not discouraged social conservatives and Tea Party stalwarts in the House and Senate, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), a 2016 presidential contender, from urging GOP leaders to do everything in their power to pass legislation to defund Planned Parenthood.
Top congressional Democrats, like Sen. Chuck Schumer (NY) and others, have seized on the stiffening Republican strategy to accuse Republicans of courting another government shutdown.
“They would shut down government rather than fund Planned Parenthood,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said during a Capitol Hill press conference. “So again, this is about women's health.”
Democrats could use the ongoing scuffle as another piece of leverage to get the GOP back to the budget negotiating table to try to hammer out a compromise that would raise spending caps for the entire federal government, not just the Pentagon, as laid out the Republican budget.
For the time being, Planned Parenthood funding is sure to remain a hot topic.
The issue is likely to be debated among Republican presidential candidates who have demonstrated a gift for heated rhetoric when they take the stage for their inaugural debate.