The spending showdown looms in Washington. The Center for Medical Progress has released a tenth Planned Parenthood video, showing a top PP executive saying some clinics “generate a fair amount of income doing this” – “this” being the sale of aborted baby parts. Mitch McConnell’s fall agenda: “infrastructure funding, cybersecurity reform, a chemical safety bill”. “None of them by themselves fundamentally change the country. But they’re all important,” McConnell said.” For a membership that just came back from getting an earful from constituents about Planned Parenthood, Iran, and Donald Trump, that’s not very comforting.
The disturbing part about all of this is that McConnell still seems to be operating under the assumption that the above agenda amounts to leadership. It doesn’t. Responsible leadership responds to the demands of the people by synthesizing and channeling this anti-Washington emotion into something productive. You have to give the stray voltage, in David Plouffe’s expression of the phrase, a direction to go – otherwise it eventually turns on you. But that’s not what the Senate leadership is interested in doing at all.
In the absence of a viable vehicle for this rage, and with McConnell repeatedly stressing that shutdown politics must be avoided at all costs and that Planned Parenthood will be funded, the only takeaway is that the Republican Party is uninterested in even having that fight. Rather than put a CR on the floor that defunds Planned Parenthood and forcing Democratic and Republican Senators to go on television decrying it or defending it for weeks, McConnell has declared that such a strategy is DOA, and that he’s talked to all the pro-life groups and they agree.
Sherpas in the pro-life grassroots are determined to take Everest this time. Planned Parenthood has indeed gone too far. The ice that has formed over their hearts is a mile thick. No global warming is happening there. And this time there are alternative trails and passes galore, in the form of community health centers that provide more and safer services for women and their families. Defunding is a fight worth having, and reaching the summit is possible, but only if we do not shrink from the challenge.
The Senate plan, so far as can be detected, is “maximum shrinkage”. There was an epithet thrown at those pushing for shutdown over Obamacare that amounted to “what’s your plan?” Meaning to depict the shutdown pushers as Underpants Gnomes, seeking “Shutdown…Profit!” But now the leadership is full of people openly admitting they have no plan. What’s your plan to address the rage over Planned Parenthood? Make some noise, then allow it. What’s your plan to address the Iran deal? Make some noise, then allow it. What’s your plan to address Obama’s push to bust the BCA caps on spending? Make some noise, then allow it. They won’t even offer a fig leaf of a border security measure to address the Trumpist uprising. They honestly believe Maximum Shrinkage is an agenda that will inspire everyone to get on that GOP train for next year.
[I]f Republicans approach such a fight focused sharply on the aim of drawing attention to the extremism of abortion advocates, they might find some creative ways to start and end the argument on their terms. They could, to take one example, propose a continuing resolution that denies federal funds to Planned Parenthood, and then, when Democrats filibuster that measure, Republicans could demand to include language in a revised continuing resolution (shorn of the defunding language) that, in the style of a finding or resolution of condemnation, plainly states that a majority of the Congress believes federal funds should not flow to Planned Parenthood because the organization commits hundreds of thousands of abortions per year and has been found to be engaged in deplorable trafficking in human organs, that a minority of the Congress and President Obama threaten to shut down the government rather than withhold such funding, and that the majority has therefore agreed for this year to abide their extremism for the sake of keeping the government functioning but looks forward to a time when taxpayers are not compelled by a radical minority to support inhumanity. They might then list the names of the members who want to deny federal money to Planned Parenthood, and those who don’t.
Such a measure would make it difficult for the press to ignore the facts about Planned Parenthood and the videos that precipitated the controversy. It would not be easy for the president to shut down the government just to withhold his signature from such language. And if he did, it would only draw more attention to the underlying controversy—since all the measure would do would be to put some plain facts on the record. It would really require Democrats to shut down the government just to keep the country’s eyes closed to what Planned Parenthood is, and this would be no easy feat.
There is little sign that leadership is listening, unfortunately.
Within the next few weeks, the likeliest result of all this is that Senate Republicans will allow the Iran deal to proceed; they will allow Planned Parenthood to be funded; and they will allow a continuing resolution that busts the defense and non-defense caps of the Budget Control Act. Congratulations, Senators: by shrinking from each of these fights, you just raised a middle finger to fiscal, social, and national security conservatives. And you just gave every outsider candidate for the 2016 nomination more fuel for their populist fires.