McCarthy predicts no shutdown over Planned Parenthood

Greg Nash

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Monday predicted that a fierce fight over Planned Parenthood funding would not lead to a government shutdown next month.

For months, conservatives in his conference have been threatening to attach language to an omnibus funding bill that would defund the healthcare provider, a move sure to lead to a confrontation with President Obama and Democrats.

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But McCarthy suggested that Congress’s focus has shifted from Planned Parenthood to national security in the wake of the deadly Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris.

“I do not hear people shutting the government down over it right now,” McCarthy told reporters when asked about efforts to strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood. “I think security is becoming the top issue, especially [in] the last two weeks.”

McCarthy, who controls the floor schedule, said he expects the House to pass the omnibus spending bill by Dec. 11, when money for the federal government is scheduled to run out. But he also noted that Congress is supposed to be in session through Dec. 18, giving lawmakers an extra week to pass a spending bill before leaving town for the holidays.

While he tamped down talk of a shutdown, McCarthy said there would be no shortage of votes on policy amendments to the spending bill, though he declined to identify what those riders might be.

“For someone to say there’s not going to be riders ... how do you write a bill that’s not a continuing resolution that doesn’t have riders?” McCarthy asked. “I think that is just political banter that the minority party wants to play.

“The role of members of Congress is to govern, and that’s what riders do as well. We realize there’s going to be riders from both sides of the aisle inside the omnibus.”

National security will dominate much of the spending debate over the next couple weeks. At least one of the Islamic State terrorists in Paris purportedly posed as a Syrian refugee to gain entry to France, raising fears that terrorists could also try to infiltrate refugee populations coming to the United States.  

Before the Thanksgiving recess, the House passed a bill on a big, bipartisan vote that would require tougher screening before refugees fleeing war-torn Syria and Iraq could be admitted to the U.S.

McCarthy said it’s possible the House could also vote on a series of bills before the holidays to tighten the program that allows foreigners to travel to the U.S. without getting a visa. 

The GOP leader and a handful of committee chairmen will meet Tuesday to discuss ideas recommended by a Homeland Security Committee task force in September.

The ideas include requiring that all visa-waiver program countries issue “e-passports” with chips and biometrics by a certain deadline; requiring that these countries submit information to Interpol on lost or stolen passports; and requiring that an annual evaluation is conducted every two years.

McCarthy pushed back on a suggestion that adding language to the omnibus to restrict refugees could attract more GOP support for the spending bill.

"I don’t look at the refugee issue as something to get votes for the omnibus," he said. "I look at it as safety” for our country.

- This story was updated at 2:34 p.m.