By Rebecca Shabad and Peter Sullivan – 09/17/15 11:35 AM EDT
House GOP leaders are trying to convince their rank and file it would be a bad move to risk a government shutdown over blocking funding for Planned Parenthood.
At a closed-door conference meeting on Thursday morning, leadership presented their members with polling data from the House GOP’s campaign arm showing Republicans would be blamed for a government shutdown.
“They showed us some polling data about shutdown versus defunding Planned Parenthood and obviously showing in their opinion that it would be a political bad move,” said Rep. John Fleming (R-La.), a conservative who has pledged not to vote for Planned Parenthood funds.
Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), another conservative who wants to defund Planned Parenthood through a government-funding bill, also said GOP leaders think the data showed Republicans would be responsible.
“They’re trying to let us know that if we submit a bill to the president that defunds Planned Parenthood and he says he’s going to veto that, that we’ll be blamed for a shutdown and that the American public doesn’t support that,” Salmon told reporters.
“I don’t think it’s an accurate picture of everything,” he added. “As I mentioned, there’s nobody in the conference that wants a shutdown. Nobody wants that, but I think that the president ultimately has to either put up or shut up.”
Salmon said GOP leaders always surrender in these shutdown fights.
“Our leaders wave the white flag every time there’s any kind of a confrontation,” he said.
Republicans were blamed for the 16-day government shutdown in 2013 that was triggered by a fight over defunding ObamaCare. The GOP’s approval ratings plummeted during the shutdown.
No decisions have been finalized yet on how to deal with Planned Parenthood, the lawmakers said, and leadership still says it is listening to members and is open to ideas.
At the same time, GOP leaders appear to be leaning toward using budget reconciliation rules to defund the group. The rules would allow a bill to move through the Senate on a majority vote, preventing the minority from filibustering. President Obama would still veto such a measure, but it would at least reach his desk and could be politically useful to the GOP.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) referred to reconciliation after the meeting.
“There are a lot of steps in this process,” Boehner said at a press conference after the meeting in which he highlighted votes on two bills backed by anti-abortion lawmakers. “You will see a lot of steps in the coming weeks, and certainly reconciliation is a distinct possibility as well.”
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said he has a “clean” continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government “ready to go” and is just waiting for leadership’s decision on Planned Parenthood.
The House has seven legislative days remaining before the Oct. 1 deadline to fund the government and prevent a shutdown.