Democrats balk at border wall, threaten government shutdown over Planned Parenthood funding

Engaging in hardball tactics Monday and Tuesday, two Senate Democrats informed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) of their intent to utilize procedural rules to block any stopgap measure which includes funding for President Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico or removal of funding for Planned Parenthood.

The Senate GOP has taken steps to include funding for the president’s wall in a stopgap measure being considered in Congress’ upper chamber.  The federal government has remained in operation since the early December passage of a temporary spending bill, set to expire April 28.

Democrats say a refusal to fund Planned Parenthood or bankroll additional border fencing would inevitably lead to a government shutdown.

Planned Parenthood is the country’s largest female reproductive health provider and receives over $500 million annually through various government-sponsored medical programs.  Public funds account for 40 percent of Planned Parenthood’s yearly budget.

Mr. Trump made illegal immigration and the border wall the centerpiece of his 2016 presidential campaign and has demonstrated his commitment to the issue through a series of actions, including an executive order temporarily halting travelers to the U.S. from six nations.

In a Monday letter from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to McConnell warning of consequences, Leahy, on behalf of Senate Democratic leadership, wrote:

“We believe it would be inappropriate to insist on the inclusion of such funding in a must-pass appropriations bill that is needed for the Republican majority in control of the Congress to avert a government shutdown so early in President Trump’s Administration.”

A day later, specifically citing Planned Parenthood, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) seconded Leahy’s letter in a statement which read:

“If Republicans insist on inserting poison pill riders such as defunding Planned Parenthood, building a border wall, or starting a deportation force, they will be shutting down the government and delivering a severe blow to our economy.”

Despite the threat, Democrats should be leery:  The tactic could backfire.  A previous government shutdown lasting 16 days occurred in 2013 over Obamacare funding.  Although Republicans only controlled the House of Representatives at the time, Obama’s White House successfully blamed the GOP.

Now in the minority, the Democrats could suffer greatly should they pursue the same tack.


[Bloomberg] [Roll Call] [Photo courtesy AP via Politico]