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Boehner, GOP settle on strategy to prevent Oct. 1 shutdown
Top House Republicans hope to convince their members to keep the government open by using a fast-track process known as reconciliation to try to defund Planned Parenthood.
House Republican leaders are planning to target Planned Parenthood's funding by immediately drafting a fast-track reconciliation bill, according to a senior House GOP aide.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his lieutenants will lay out their strategy at a closed-door conference meeting on Friday.
While the plan would mean supporting a short-term bill introduced in the Senate on Thursday to keep the government open through Dec. 11, it could also lead to legislation blocking money for Planned Parenthood hitting President Obama's desk.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) defended the strategy in an interview Thursday with CNN, arguing that fighting Planned Parenthood through budget reconciliation was the wiser strategy.
"We intend to put on the president's desk, I believe, legislation," Ryan said. "And we can do that through our budget process. So I think there are better ways in getting at this issue, defunding this barbaric process and this group that does this, than involving the shutdown issue."
It's unclear, however, if the effort will pass muster with House conservatives - particularly with Boehner facing serious threats to his Speakership.
Many House Republicans voiced support for using reconciliation during "listening sessions" held between GOP leaders and their rank-and-file. The rules would prevent Senate Democrats from filibustering, almost ensuring that a funding bill blocking money for Planned Parenthood would reach the White House.
Implicit in this course, however, is the suggestion that the House would have to vote next week on the Senate bill that includes funding for Planned Parenthood.
That might be a bridge too far for many House conservatives, who have insisted they will not support any government funding bill that also includes money for Planned Parenthood.
Several House conservatives met with leadership in Boehner's office on Thursday. They included Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), who spearheaded a defunding letter signed by 30 other Republicans; Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus; Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho); and Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.).
Mulvaney indicated after the meeting that the conservatives are not backing down from their opposition to a "clean" spending bill, saying that he thinks such a bill would lose at least 50 Republican votes.
Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, said that voting on the Senate bill is "not enough" and that his group is preparing amendments, including on imposing sanctions on Iran.
"The Senate's CR [continuing resolution] reads like [Senate Minority Leader] Harry Reid's [D-Nev.] wish list, and the House must amend it to achieve our policy objectives," he said.
The threats to Boehner have increased the stakes in the latest spending showdown.
Salmon said last week that Boehner's Speakership was on "thin ice." Asked after the meeting Thursday if he would amend that remark, he said, "I would let my old comments stand."
Boehner may not need every Republican vote, as Democrats are expected to provide more than enough votes to make up the difference - as long as the legislation does not cut Planned Parenthood's money or include other riders attacking Democratic priorities.
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said Thursday that Democrats would break from tradition and vote for the rule on a clean spending bill, something they rarely do.
"I hope so, yes," she said when asked if they would.
Once a short-term spending bill is passed to avert a shutdown, Democrats want negotiations on raising sequestration spending caps that were put in place in 2011.
"I would say that it's in the interest of Democrats and Republicans to get a clean CR so that we can get to work on an omnibus raising the sequester and raising the caps," Lowey added.
House Republican leaders expressed some confidence that they would avoid a second shutdown on their watch in as many years.
Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), asked if he's spoken to House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) about needing Democratic votes for the measure, said, "I think we're going to be OK.
"I think conference is going to go very well," McCarthy added.
Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 3 Republican in the Senate, said he thought both chambers would get onboard with a stopgap spending measure. "I think this is going to get done," Thune told reporters. "I don't usually say that."
The House's new strategy comes after a government spending bill that defunds Planned Parenthood was blocked in the Senate on Thursday, and McConnell announced that the upper chamber would vote on a measure that keeps Planned Parenthood funds intact.
The Senate is expected to hold a procedural vote on the measure Monday and will skip working through the weekend. The White House has said President Obama would sign a "clean" short-term spending bill.
Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) said Thursday that Republicans need to realize that the only way to prevent a shutdown is a "clean" spending bill.
"We all know what it's going to come down to: We're either going to fund the government or we're not," he said. "And the only way we're going to fund the government is if it has a provision in there that continues the funding [for Planned Parenthood]. That's what we have to reconcile in our conference."
Peter Schroeder and Sarah Ferris contributed.