Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell embraces the fight to defund Planned Parenthood though he thinks it can’t be won by threatening to shut down the U.S. government, a spokesman said Friday.
“It won’t solve the problem,” said the spokesman, Don Stewart, of McConnell’s view.
That suggests that the Kentucky Republican will push to keep a proposal to defund Planned Parenthood out of a government funding bill. For now, Stewart said McConnell will wait to see what’s in a spending bill that comes from the House.
Current government funding expires at the end of the month and Congress hasn’t yet enacted any of the 12 annual spending bills for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1. Planned Parenthood defunding has emerged as a key demand by some conservatives in exchange for agreeing to a temporary extension of funding.
“We cannot in good moral conscience vote to send taxpayer money to this organization while still fulfilling our duty to represent our constituents,” members of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative lawmakers, said in a statement Thursday. “We must therefore oppose any spending measure that contains funding for Planned Parenthood.”
The clamor for defunding Planned Parenthood grew after the release of videos purporting to show its doctors discussing harvesting fetal tissue for research, with activists posing as representatives of a medical research company. The organization has said it doesn’t sell fetal tissue for a profit, and instead provides tissue for the cost of collecting and delivering it.
House Speaker John Boehner this week wouldn’t rule out attaching language to block federal funding for Planned Parenthood to a temporary spending measure.
Stewart was asked to explain McConnell’s position after Politico reported that the majority leader said in an interview that he will back a plan to keep government funded into December with no conditions.
Trying to defund Planned Parenthood as part of a spending bill is “an exercise in futility” and could lead to a government shutdown, Politico reported McConnell as saying. While he wants to end funding for the group, “the honest answer of that is that’s not going to happen until you have a president who has a similar view,” he was quoted as saying.
Stewart said McConnell meant that shutting down government won’t solve the problem, and also that Planned Parenthood funding is provided under Medicaid and “not part part of the appropriations process.”
Stewart didn’t say whether McConnell would offer a stopgap spending bill without the effort to end Planned Parenthood funding, if the House sends the Senate a measure that would defund the group.