Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved swiftly Thursday to shut down any possible conservative attempt to block funding for Planned Parenthood, the federally-funded abortion provider weathering a political scandal.
“There’s no education in the second kick of the mule,” McConnell said, referring to an attempt by conservatives to block government funding for ObamaCare. “We’ve been down this path before,” McConnell added.
In recent weeks, the activist group Center for Medical Progress has released several undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing the harvesting and sale of baby organs and body parts recovered from abortions. The activities discussed in the videos could violate federal law and raise the possibility of criminal charges against the organization that receives half a billion dollars from taxpayers every year.
Congress will have to authorize a new spending authorization for the federal government after it returns from the August recess. Conservatives have discussed defunding Planned Parenthood as a condition for keeping the federal government open.
McConnell is trying to head off that effort and reiterate his commitment to keep government funding open. “Yeah, we’ll fund the government. I can’t tell you what will finally end up in or out of any government funding resolution; I can tell you without fear of contradiction there will be no government shutdown.”
In other words, McConnell would rather a possibly criminal organization like Planned Parenthood continue to receive money from the federal Treasury than risk a bad news cycle.
McConnell explained that a vote last week seeking to defund Planned Parenthood allowed Senators to be “on record” against the organization.
That comment goes to the heart of the problem with McConnell’s leadership. He has picked up the mantle from Harry Reid and runs the Senate through the prism of the next election cycle. For leaders like Reid and McConnell, having the opportunity, or pitfall, of being “on the record” with votes, which can of course be turned into campaign ads, is the standard by which Senate action is measured.
McConnell is basically saying that Senators have had a vote on Planned Parenthood, so there is no reason to risk a government shutdown to actually defund the organization. For McConnell, a vote against Planned Parenthood is the same thing as legislative action to hold the organization accountable.
This is the fundamental divide between conservative and many Republican voters and the party’s leadership in Washington. The DC GOP leadership wants to hold power. The voters that put them there want them to do something with that power.
The entire playbook of the present-day Republican leadership is basically a political prevent defense. Take no action that the media could use against it, don’t concede any goals, hope for Democrat missteps and amass a compelling rhetorical message that can win elections.
In some cases, this strategy works, but it also helps explain why Republicans almost never contest Democrat-leaning districts or states. Democrats often win Republican-leaning Congressional districts and statewide elections in very Red states. Republicans almost never do the opposite.
Sometimes you have to fight to win. And, often, that fight involves creating and dictating the terms of the engagement. The American public is overwhelmingly opposed to public funding of abortion. They are almost universally opposed to the idea of harvesting and selling aborted baby organs and parts.
Supporters of Planned Parenthood will disagree with that characterization of the current debate. That political challenge is for them to face, however. Republican leaders should force them to do it.
One hundred years ago this summer, a dark cloud settled over Europe as the industrialized might of the world settled into the largest showdown of “prevent defense” ever seen. The world has not yet recovered from the carnage that ensued.
The Republicans won the majority in Congress last November. It is far past the time they did something with it.