Congress' Planned Parenthood Fight Complicated by Leadership Challenge

The House speaker must balance the demands of angry members in his own party.

And he must do it against the backdrop of a looming threat to his speakership.

Republicans are upset about secretly recorded videos of Planned Parenthood officials allegedly discussing the sale of tissue from aborted fetuses, which Democrats and the organization claim are doctored and show no evidence of wrongdoing.

The House will also vote later this week on two Planned Parenthood-related bills: one from Rep. Diane Black, R-Tennessee, to freeze federal funding for a year during congressional investigations, and another, from Rep. Trent Franks, R-Arizona, that targets medical providers that don’t extend services to babies that survive abortions.

But a growing number of Republicans want to link the issues of Planned Parenthood and government funding, saying they are willing to allow a partial shutdown of the government unless new funding is denied to the organization.

“Taxpayer dollars shouldn’t go there, not another penny,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a member of the House Freedom Caucus. “You have to use the power of the purse.”

He told Politico last week that he would support a “clean” funding resolution that wouldn’t defund the organization.

“He either has to make a bad deal with Democrats, or shut the government down,” said Franks, arguing that Senate Democrats should be held responsible for any shutdown.

Boehner’s political calculation is made riskier by a potential vote to depose him introduced by Rep. Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina.

Meadows, who filed a symbolic measure protesting Boehner’s leadership in July, has said he or another conservative could force a vote to replace Boehner if they’re unhappy with his leadership through the month. It’s unclear how such a vote would shake out.

Boehner, who is supported by the majority of the conference, has faced resistance from House conservatives in the past. He dismissed Meadows’ challenge last week.

“I have widespread support amongst my members,” he told reporters. “The goal here is not to shut down the government. The goal is to stop these horrific practices of organizations selling baby parts.”

“Our fight to stop this bad deal is frankly just beginning,” Boehner said on the House floor Friday.

Boehner and his team haven’t announced a strategy to avert a government shutdown, they're expected to do so this week, after his leadership team held listening sessions with members of the conference on Planned Parenthood.

“It has been indisputable that the conversation has included the widest range of views,” said Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas. “I think everybody has been heard.”

Democrats want bipartisan long-term budget negotiations over lifting domestic and defense spending caps, in exchange for supporting a short-term continuing resolution Republicans anticipate passing.