With less than two weeks before the start of the new federal fiscal year, Republican leaders on Capitol Hill are scrambling to avert a government shutdown by reaching a compromise with conservatives determined to stop funding for Planned Parenthood.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) remained confident that Congress will approve a continuing resolution (CR) and avoid a shutdown. At a Sept. 16 press briefing, he said, “We're in discussion with the House about how to go forward on that. It is my hope that we will end up having a continuing resolution into later this year, which will give time for us to engage with the administration in determining how much we're going to spend and where we're going to spend it.”
The majority leader emphasized, “We're going to fund the government, we're not going to shut the government down.”
McConnell blamed the current situation on Senate Democrats, who have blocked floor action on all of the FY 2016 spending bills. He said Democrats “were quite candid about the reason they did that; they wanted to force us to spend more on everything. And so we are inevitably going to end up in a negotiation that will crack the Budget Control Act once again.”
Meanwhile, the president met with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for about 90 minutes on Sept. 17 to discuss strategy for budget negotiations. They indicated a willingness to support a short-term CR, but insisted that it not include any controversial provisions, such as a prohibition on funding Planned Parenthood.
After the meeting, Reid told reporters, “The three of us agree that we want a short-term CR. We want to make sure that the riders are off that. We want to make sure we have equal money for defense and non-defense.”
Movement on a CR has been complicated by conservative Republicans who vow to block any spending bill that includes funding for Planned Parenthood. The House was scheduled to vote Sept. 18 on a bill to stop funding for Planned Parenthood (H.R. 3134) and a proposal to increase protections for infants born alive during an abortion (H.R. 3504). The White House Sept. 16 issued a Statement of Administration Policy threatening to veto both measures.