Terry Jeffrey

"Nope. Zero."

According to a story in Sunday's New York Times, that is what President Barack Obama told House Speaker John Boehner last week when Boehner, as the Times put it, "was demanding a provision to restrict financing to Planned Parenthood and other groups that provide abortions."

Boehner asked again, the Times reported, and Obama again said: "Nope. Zero."

The bottom line: Boehner agreed to a deal to fund the government for the rest of fiscal 2011 that will permit continued federal funding for Planned Parenthood, a group that says it did 332,278 abortions in 2009 -- or about 910 per day.

This is despite the fact that the House voted 240 to 185 in February for an amendment to prohibit Planned Parenthood funding in the bill they initially passed to fund the government for the rest of this fiscal year.

Boehner had a massive bipartisan majority of the House behind him on defunding Planned Parenthood -- but he still caved.

He did win a farcical face-saving concession from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who promised to hold a vote in the Senate on stand-alone legislation to prohibit funding of Planned Parenthood. But this was an easy concession for Reid to make. As a stand-alone bill, Planned Parenthood defunding will never pass the Senate.

That is because the stand-alone legislation will be subjected to a cloture vote -- to end debate on it -- before it is taken up on its merits. The cloture vote needs the support of 60 senators. In this Senate, getting 60 votes to defund Planned Parenthood would be impossible.

In fact, it will be unlikely in any Senate in the near future.

Consider: If the Republicans were to win control of the White House and the Senate in the November 2012 elections and increased their House majority by another 40 pro-life congressmen, would they then be able to defund Planned Parenthood with a stand-alone bill? Not likely.

Even if the new president was committed to defunding Planned Parenthood and 280 members of the 435-member House were ready to vote for it, a stand-alone measure would still need 60 votes in the Senate. If three or four Republican senators were social liberals committed to maintaining federal funding for the nation's top abortion provider, Planned Parenthood funding would be maintained. The Republicans might need a 65-vote majority in the Senate to overcome their own defectors.

Does this mean Planned Parenthood will never be defunded? No, it does not.

It only means Planned Parenthood will never be defunded so long as Republican leaders think the way Speaker Boehner did last week in his negotiations with President Obama.

Imagine if the conversation between Obama and Boehner had been turned around.

Terry Jeffrey

Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor-in-chief of CNSNews

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