Senate set to act on stopgap spending bill to avoid shutdown

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate is on track to advance legislation to prevent the government from shutting down after a midnight Wednesday deadline, but a wrinkle remains.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has moved to strip the measure of a provision that would cancel federal funding of Planned Parenthood. McConnell's move has rankled conservatives such as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and tea partyers in the House who want the taxpayer money withheld from the women's health care provider after the release of secret videos in which Planned Parenthood officials discussed the transfer of fetal tissue to researchers.

The White House signaled that Obama would sign the measure, called a continuing resolution, or CR, into law — if the House steps aside from the fight that tea party Republicans want over Planned Parenthood. McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, don't want the battle over Planned Parenthood to lead to a government shutdown.

Last week, Democrats led a filibuster of a Senate stopgap measure that would have "defunded" Planned Parenthood. That measure failed to win eight Republicans which left it short of a simple majority, much less the 60 votes required to overcome the filibuster.

Boehner's shocking announcement on Friday that he'll retire from Congress at the end of next month promises to ease passage of the measure through a shell-shocked House. Boehner had been struggling to overcome objections from lawmakers such as Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., who strongly oppose passing a stopgap measure free of the Planned Parenthood language.

Boehner said Sunday the House would take up the Senate bill, and also look at a select committee to investigate the video. The stopgap measure would require Democratic votes to pass.

"I expect my Democrat colleagues want to keep the government open as much as I do," Boehner said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

Democrats and most Senate Republicans are likely to help the measure over the 60-vote threshold this time, setting the stage for a final vote as early as Tuesday.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., announced a vote Tuesday on a separate filibuster-proof budget measure that would defund Planned Parenthood. It would permit Republicans to deliver to Obama a measure to take away almost $500 million a year in taxpayer funding for the organization, most of which goes to provide health services to low-income women via the Medicaid program.