Congress returns, resumes Planned Parenthood fight
As lawmakers return to Capitol Hill from August recess, they'll have less than a month to compromise on funding the federal government and one roadblock to passing that funding is the GOP-led fight over federal money for Planned Parenthood.
The organization that came under new scrutiny after secret videos showed staff members discussing the sale of fetal tissue.
Senator and Republican Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz is leading the effort in the U.S. Senate. At a event in his state last week Cruz said, "We're going to have a battle in the United States Congress about whether the federal government should continue to provide roughly $500 million a year to fund Planned Parenthood."
The battle he is referring to is likely to pit not just Republicans against Democrats, but Republicans against Republicans.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has already voiced his opposition against tying the issue to the funding of the federal government. In an interview with local Kentucky television station, WYMT, McConnell pointed out another major factor in the debate: The President's veto pen.
"The President's made it very clear he's not going to sign any bill that includes defunding of Planned Parenthood -- so that's another issue that awaits a new president hopefully with a different point of view," McConnell said in the interview.
Senators Cruz and McConnell are no strangers to public spats. Cruz took to the Senate Floor over the summer and called McConnell a "liar." But political experts like George Washington University Professor David Rehr point out that Republicans have to be careful with the public in-fighting.
Rehr said, "You need to be careful that you don't have Republicans fighting Republicans fighting Republicans and people throwing up their hands saying, 'The Republicans can't govern, now that they control Congress.' "
Congressional Democrats are already pointing fingers at their Republican colleagues, putting the blame solely on them in the event of a government shutdown.
Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said, "It would seem to be absurd if we would shut the government down. I think we ought to continue to support Planned Parenthood for the work that they do on fostering women's health overall and it's clear the majority - or the potential standard bearers of the majority are really not much interested in women's health."
At the end of the day, a possible shutdown may cause little political backlash against Republicans, especially when it comes to the 2016 elections.
"Americans generally have short memories about government shutdowns," Rehr said. "I believe that people are going to vote for the next president based upon growing the economy."
Both Senator Ted Cruz and Republicans in the House of Representatives are circulating letters to their leaderships, asking them to take up defunding of the Planned Parenthood. Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) has written an unattached bill that would put a one-year freeze on funding, while the Congress conducts its investigation into the content of the secret videos. The House Judiciary is holding its first hearing on the matter on Wednesday.
On Thursday, anti-abortion groups and lawmakers will also hold a rally at Capitol Hill, urging lawmakers to defund Planned Parenthood. Another Republican Presidential hopeful and Senator, Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), is set to headline that event.