After Republicans failed to defund Planned Parenthood exactly one month ago, a group of theocratic conservatives in the House pledged not to vote for any government funding bill that includes Planned Parenthood. The provocative stance creates the potential for yet another fiscal crisis as part of the evangelical Republican battle plan against people in government that believe religion has no place in women’s healthcare decisions. The Republicans who are enthralled with the idea of legislating by religion intend to shut down the government if they cannot deny millions of poor and low-income women access to cancer screenings, family planning assistance, and reproductive healthcare.
Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell informed Republicans and evangelicals the GOP is indebted to that there are not enough votes, again, to defund Planned Parenthood. In fact, McConnell failed to make any mention of a government shutdown and attempted to calm the evangelicals by telling them they just have to wait until 2017 when a new president will surely be eager to join the religious GOP’s war on women. McConnell said, “The president’s made it very clear he’s not going to sign any bill that includes defunding of Planned Parenthood, so that’s another issue that awaits a new president, hopefully with a different point of view about Planned Parenthood.”
Interestingly, McConnell implies that the only thing standing between Republican theocrats and wiping out Planned Parenthood is President Obama, and yet a month ago there were not enough votes to defund the women’s healthcare organization. He did, however, promise to give Republicans another opportunity to fail and pledged that the Senate would vote again on defunding Planned Parenthood after Congress’ 5-week paid vacation despite the failed Senate vote last month. McConnell even alerted biblical legislators that holding another vote was sheer futility when he said that the votes are just not there to deny poor women reproductive healthcare .
McConnell said, “We just don’t have the votes to get the outcome that we’d like. Again, the president has the pen to sign it. If he doesn’t sign it, it doesn’t happen. But, yeah, we voted on that already in the Senate, we’ll vote on it again, but I would remind everyone that the way you make a law in this country, the Congress has to pass it and the president has to sign it.” It is good that McConnell at least understands the process for using religious legislation to defund Planned Parenthood, but it did nothing whatsoever to pacify religious Republicans who insist their religious duty is either using evangelical legislation to deny poor women reproductive care, or shut down the government.
One can hardly blame any Republican for wanting to shut down the government again because the last time they did it they increased their majority in the House, won control of the Senate, and increased their gubernatorial numbers. Still, McConnell’s announcement, and his explanation about “the way you make a law in this country,” did little to ease the angst of evangelical legislators who expressed their righteous religious fury by attacking McConnell for not upholding good conservative standards which when translated into neo-Christianity means “upholding good evangelical standards;” there is nothing ‘conservative‘ about denying reproductive healthcare to low-income American women.
Not only did McConnell’s announcement enrage evangelical Republicans who lack the votes to deny millions of women reproductive healthcare, there were numerous angry responses from conservatives who expected a Koch-bought Congress to “be more confrontational with Obama;” particularly over legislating religion. For example, evangelical fanatic Ted Cruz’s spokesperson, Phil Novack, expressed his boss’s ire by saying, “Senate leadership first told us we needed the majority before we could act on conservative principles. But now it appears that they are making yet another excuse for a failure to act on our promises.” Obviously, having to adhere to the legislative process is considered “making yet another excuse for failing to act on our promises” and perhaps that is why Cruz accused McConnell of lying earlier this summer.
In the House, Representative Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) compared McConnell’s announcement that there are not enough votes to defund Planned Parenthood to “waving a white flag.” He advised Senate Republicans to fire McConnell as majority leader and replace him with a true evangelical; as if that will garner sufficient votes to defund Planned Parenthood or convince President Obama to go along with legislating according to religion. Mulvaney is so put off by McConnell’s inability to garner votes to defund Planned Parenthood, he has been busy gathering Republican lawmakers’ signatures for a letter promising to shut down the government if Planned Parenthood is not defunded; something he blames solely on Mitch McConnell. Mulvaney said, “Tell me the difference between Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid.”
According to the chairman of the conservative “ForAmerica” group, Brent Bozell, Mitch McConnell’s worth to religious Republicans is the same as that of Senate Minority Leader Reid; nothing. Bozell said, “McConnell is useless. He won’t fight for a damn thing and then whines he doesn’t have the votes. Why, exactly, is he there?” The executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Dawn Laguens, attempted to answer Bozell’s question. She said, “The real question is can McConnell convince the rest of Congress to not hold the federal government hostage as a few politicians try to score cheap political points by cutting health care for millions.” It is highly likely that with McConnell’s announcement, he is going to have a more difficult time swaying more than a few members of Congress from his party that shutting down the government over religion is not part of the Republican game plan.
Many people are under the wrong impression that Republicans want to defund Planned Parenthood just because of the heavily edited and secretly recorded videos by anti-abortion groups. The videos have already been deemed phony as a three-dollar bill, but that is not going to stop religious Republicans from their ‘crusade’ to defund Planned Parenthood. It is noteworthy that defunding the reproductive healthcare organization was high on religious Republicans to-do list long before activists taped the organization’s officials discussing how they donate aborted fetuses, with consent, for medical research. In fact, the videos were contrived by anti-women’s groups solely to give Republicans extra incentive to hold the government hostage to defund Planned Parenthood.
On October 1 the federal government allegedly “runs out of money” unless the Koch Congress sends spending legislation to keep the government operating to President Obama’s desk. According to many Republicans, anything less than President Obama signing off on defunding Planned Parenthood means the government will not be funded because religion, fetus, and Republicans’ anti-women’s reproductive health agenda.
Mitch McConnell may have been better positioned to head off a shutdown, if that is what he really wants, if he had not announced that there is no way Republicans can defund Planned Parenthood; either because they lack the votes or if they had the votes President Obama is not going to play theocracy with them. What McConnell has done is give religious Republicans extra time to seethe over not being able to deny millions of low income men and women healthcare services and time to gather their forces together to shut down the government. Shutting down the government is something that may work well for Republicans going into a general election because two years ago their 16-day shutdown paid huge dividends and gave them a greater majority in the House and won them control of the Senate which says little about Republicans and speaks volumes about the idiocy of the American electorate.