This week amidst all the fog surrounding who will be the next Speaker, House Leaders are planning to pass a bill that will be a significant setback on two major conservative priorities–defunding Planned Parenthood and fully repealing Obamacare. They need to be stopped.
Congress recently voted for a “continuing resolution” to extend funding for the federal government until December 11, and in doing so, continue funding for Planned Parenthood. 151 Republicans voted against this bill, although many of them knew their votes were frankly not needed as the Democrats joined with the Boehner Republicans to ensure its passage. That was the vote that mattered, and the one that congressmen should be held accountable for. But Republican Leadership never asks their members to walk the plank on a hot-button issue without giving them a show vote to cover their tracks back home. The show vote will be this week in the form of a “reconciliation” bill that purports to defund Planned Parenthood and repeal small portions of Obamacare.
To be clear, the reconciliation process is a valuable legislative device to get certain types of bills through the Senate with 51 votes and avoid the filibuster. But its value depends on what is trying to be accomplished. It is not a one-size-fits-all procedure, and in this case, it is the exact procedure chosen to ensure that Planned Parenthood gets funded. Here is how.
Congress has the power of the purse to deny funding to the organization through the appropriations process. Of course, this is the one route that Republicans in Congress refuse to use because the Democrats are threatening a government shutdown over any bill that denies funding to Planned Parenthood — and any mention of a government shutdown gives Republicans night terrors. Instead of using the appropriations process with all the leverage and media spotlight necessary to force President Obama and Senate Democrats to cave on an issue, they chose a process that offers no leverage, no media spotlight, and no chance of overcoming a unified Democrat front. At best, reconciliation offers to “get a bill to the President’s desk” but no leverage to actually accomplish the objective of getting it signed into law. Its an exercise in high-end failure theatre that also insulates congressmen who just voted to fund Planned Parenthood from any retribution from their voters.
Unfortunately, many pro-life groups are supporting this gambit. Some like National Right to Life are complicit and doing the bidding of Republican Leaders. Some like Susan B. Anthony may not realize it. Regardless, all of these groups are ensuring that Congress possesses the cover it needs to ignore its power of the purse between now and December 11, when the next vote to fund the government occurs.
But this is not just a setback on defunding Planned Parenthood. It’s also a complete retreat from the effort to fully repeal Obamacare. The Democrats used reconciliation to enact Obamacare, and it is going to be needed to repeal it. This year’s Congressional budget promised to use reconciliation for full repeal (to get the votes of conservative members on the budget) in order to lock in the commitment and test run the process for 2017. However, Republican Leaders hate that they are expected to repeal all of Obamacare in the future. They want to define “full repeal” as dealing with some of the most well-known provisions (medical device tax, individual mandate, employer mandate, etc.) while leaving in place the mammoth entitlements that will be harder politically to dislodge. They want to lower expectations for the future and distract voters from the objective of full repeal. This reconciliation bill that repeals only portions of Obamacare ensures they will succeed.
House conservatives need to wake up and realize what their Leaders are trying to accomplish and vote no. The Democrats will have to vote no, giving the House Freedom Caucus the leverage to bring this bill down. In doing so, they will keep the expectation of full repeal of Obamacare alive and ensure that the fight on defunding Planned Parenthood is focused squarely on Congress’ power of the purse in the run up to December 11.
There is a reason why the American people hate their government and Congress in particular. Its this type of governing by shiny object, and it needs to end. House conservatives would do well to say enough is enough and put an end to it where they can.