By Richard Cowan and David Lawder
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As a possible U.S. government shutdown loomed, the leader of the House of Representatives' most conservative Republicans vowed on Monday to oppose any stop-gap funding bill that keeps federal money flowing to Planned Parenthood.
In a showdown that threatens to jolt financial markets and the economy, Republican leaders were struggling to craft a government funding extension that meets anti-abortion conservatives' demands to cut off the women's healthcare group.
Congress has five legislative days left before the fiscal year ends. On Oct. 1. If no action is taken, funding will run out for "non-essential" agencies and personnel. Republican House Speaker John Boehner has yet to articulate a plan.
"Our position is, we're not going to vote for something that allows money to continue to go to Planned Parenthood," Representative Jim Jordan said in a telephone interview from his Ohio district. He chairs the Freedom Caucus, a splinter group of the House's most conservative Republicans.
Though they number only about three dozen, they have managed to exert outsized influence over the House and Boehner.
Jordan said there would be plenty of House votes for a plan to extend current levels of agency funding but shift Planned Parenthood's funds to other women's healthcare groups.
That sort of measure was expected to face opposition from Democrats and President Barack Obama. They have been supportive of Planned Parenthood since it came under attack weeks ago over a series of videos that allege the group sold aborted fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood has said it has done nothing wrong.
Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have pledged to avoid a repeat of a 17-day government shutdown in October 2013, but also want to punish Planned Parenthood, a perennial target for Republicans.
While Boehner tries to advance a funding bill and tamp down a possible conservative revolt, the Senate might take the lead, with McConnell maneuvering for a politically palatable solution.
In McConnell's hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, Sandra Dittmeier said Republicans should not be "holding the government hostage" over Planned Parenthood.
Walking into the KentuckyOne Health Medical Mall, Dittmeier said Planned Parenthood may be controversial, but does some good and should be left alone.
"If they (Republicans) want to raise teenage girls' babies, go for it I guess. I just really, really hate the whole method they're going about it," she said.
(Additional reporting by Steve Bittenbender in Louisville, Ky.; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Leslie Adler)