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GOP's Government Shutdown Fantasy

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"I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says, 'We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain,'" quoth Carly Fiorina at the Republican presidential debate last week. "This is about the character of our nation, and if we will not stand up and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us."

There is a big problem with the above quote. The fact-checking organization PolitiFact rated Fiorina's statement "mostly false" because the video produced and edited by abortion rights opponents does not show Planned Parenthood staffers uttering those words before a viable fetus. The video shows Holly O'Donnell, a former technician for a biomedical company that worked with Planned Parenthood, telling abortion horror stories, with stock footage of a fetus that was not moving. I think a voter who watched the video might give the same account as Fiorina. But Fiorina wants to be president, and she should correct the record.

But really, shame on Fiorina -- as well as rivals such as Sen. Ted Cruz -- for pushing the GOP to pass a spending bill ostensibly defunding Planned Parenthood just so that President Obama can veto it. On Sept. 30, when the current budget year ends, Washington then would have to shut down the government. According to this popular GOP fantasy, Americans then finally would realize that Democrats care more about Planned Parenthood than they do about running the country.


There are big holes in that fantasy. For one thing, this is Washington, so a shutdown is not really a shutdown; it instead involves closing national parks and furloughing some government workers -- who probably will get paid retroactively for workdays they did not work.

The bill in question wouldn't really defund Planned Parenthood, according to none other than National Right to Life President Carol Tobias. Planned Parenthood affiliates get most of their federal dollars through Medicaid and Title X -- and the bill Fiorina wants Obama to veto wouldn't change that. Don Stewart, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, explained, "If we shut down the government, you can't walk into Yellowstone Park, but you can walk into Planned Parenthood."

I've seen that glint in the eyes of base voters when they hear the likes of Cruz excoriate McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner for not taking a defiant stand and forcing Obama into a corner. They forget that Democrats want to be in that corner (and that most Republicans don't want to be in that corner, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll).


McConnell and Boehner are the parents who have to pick up Cruz's dirty socks. On Thursday, the Senate is scheduled to vote for a spending bill that would transfer $235 million that goes to Planned Parenthood funding to community health clinics; it won't garner the necessary 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. It lives so that later the Senate can vote on a "clean" spending bill to keep the government running. It's a charade designed to spare the party base from itself by pointing out the obvious. To wit, as Ohio Gov. John Kasich said in the most recent debate, "I don't think it's going to work out." Understatement.

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