Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell strongly implied yesterday that he wouldn't push to defund Planned Parenthood in the September appropriations negotiations. McConnell seemed to express fears that such a fight could backfire on public perception of Republicans, particularly if it led to the threat of a government shutdown:
"We've been down this path before," McConnell said. "This is a tactic that has been tried going back to the '90s and it always has the same ending — that the focus is on the government shutdown and not on the underlying issue that is being protested.
We are not doing government shutdowns and we are not threatening to default on the national debt."
The Majority Leader said, however, that the investigations into Planned Parenthood, led in the Senate by Chuck Grassley (R-IA), will press forward as planned.
"We intend to continue to pursue the facts, and we'll look for other opportunities to make our voices heard on Planned Parenthood."
McConnell's delaying of a fight over Planned Parenthood funding will likely rankle the more conservative members of the Senate who recently led the unsuccessful charge to defund Planned Parenthood. Many pro-life congressmen and activists are concerned that if GOP leaders don't push for defunding soon, they could squander the most valuable moment in the history of the pro-life movement. Now is the moment when unprecedented public scrutiny is descending upon Planned Parenthood, owing to the horrifically revealing videos released by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP). That scrutiny has produced a wave of public pressure on politicians to defund the abortion provider -- but as with any wave of pressure, it will only last for a limited time.
CMP has spread out the releasing of its videos, and that strategy has kept the issue in the public eye. There may be upward of 10 videos to come. If CMP can sustain the public attention brought upon Planned Parenthood, it will only buy time for congressional action to take place. If congressional investigations also find specific evidence of illegal activity at Planned Parenthood, that would propel the issue further into the news and motivate punitive action against Planned Parenthood.
Senate leaders know how to fight, and they have a knack for making swift action look a lot more difficult than it actually is (see the Senate's action in renewing the Ex-Im Bank). One question ultimately hangs over the Senate and its leaders: Do they care enough about stopping the horrors of Planned Parenthood to actually put up a fight?
Time will tell. Calling your senator can only help.