Right-wing scheme to shut down government may flop

WASHINGTON – Although right-wing Republicans are still scheming to shut down the federal government, at the moment their efforts seem to be faltering.

They’ve tried to close the doors of government in the past – sometimes successfully, sometimes not. This time, they seem to be so against the right of women to make their own health care choices, they would rather shut down government functions than pass a spending bill that includes some funding for Planned Parenthood.

President Obama has promised to veto any budget bill that excludes Planned Parenthood.

If a federal budget is not passed by Thursday, October 1, large parts of the government will be shut down. Despite right-wing efforts, it seems that a bill leaving Planned Parenthood untouched will, in fact, pass.

Even if it does pass, however, it will only fund the government until December 11. Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress has the power of the purse. The nation is in its current pickle because the far right has been using this power for narrow political purposes.

Last week, right wingers tried a ploy in the Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R.-Ky., introduced a version of a spending bill that excluded the funds normally given to Planned Parenthood. It pleased Ted Cruz, R.-Tex., and his tea party cronies, but cutting funding for women’s health was too much for eight Republicans to swallow and they joined Democrats in defeating the measure. It garnered 53 votes, falling seven votes short of the 60 it needed to pass. (One Democrat, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, voted with the Republicans.)

Now Speaker McConnell has bitten the bullet and has set up votes for next week that would keep the government open for two and a half months without touching Planned Parenthood.

Meanwhile in the House, Speaker John Boehner, R.-Ohio, although a long-time opponent of allowing women the right of healthcare choice, for weeks had been trying to convince his colleagues that a shutdown battle would be fruitless because they lack enough votes to prevail in the Senate or to overcome an Obama veto. Furthermore, Boehner said he believed that voters in general oppose a shutdown and would punish the GOP in next year’s elections if one occurred.

Boehner’s advice fell on deaf ears. The House passed, by 241 to 187, a budget bill that defunded Planned Parenthood. Furthermore, House right wingers threatened to force a House vote on removing him as Speaker.

A few days later, in a move that caught most observers by surprise, Boehner announced, in effect, that his erstwhile colleagues could not fire him, because he will quit Congress altogether at the end of October. He implied that he had been deeply moved by Pope Francis’ recent speech to a joint session of Congress and that he wanted to take time off for self-examination.

No matter what led Boehner to announce his soon-to-come resignation, he has made himself immune to being punished politically and is now free to cooperate with the Obama Administration in getting a federal budget passed that includes funds for Planned Parenthood.

What do these funds total? What is all the fuss about? A pittance: about $450,000. Federal law prohibits the use of any of these funds for abortion-related services, and such services account for just three percent of those offered by Planned Parenthood.

The right wingers are hanging the hat on a secretly taped, highly edited video purportedly showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing harvesting tissue from aborted fetuses for medical research.

“We are 100 percent nonprofit. We make zero profit from any fetal tissue donation,” Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood executive director told NBC News.

“This wasn’t an effort to discover wrongdoing. This was a three-year effort to create [the appearance of] wrongdoing.”

“Enough is enough,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., who chairs the Democratic National Committee. “Some of their members are willing to risk women’s lives just to score political points.”

Photo: John Boehner, GOP Speaker of the House as he announced his resignation. Boehner, who was unable to control the right wing extremists in his caucus, said he was moved by the pope’s speech in Congress and would take time for personal reflection.  |  AP


Larry Rubin
Larry Rubin

Larry Rubin has been a union organizer, a speechwriter and an editor of union publications. He was a civil rights organizer in the Deep South and is often invited to speak on applying Movement lessons to today's challenges. He has produced several folk music shows.