U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Monday said he expects lawmakers to have a "healthy debate" over Planned Parenthood this month as they consider spending legislation for the current fiscal year, but he did not expect a government shutdown over financing for the women's health group.
McCarthy, responding to questions about whether the deadly shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado would affect Republican opposition to funding the group, said the top focus of many lawmakers had moved to homeland security in the wake of the Nov. 13 attacks that killed 130 people in Paris.
Planned Parenthood critics in Congress want the government to stop providing funding for the group because it offers abortion services. But, "I do not hear people shutting the government down over it right now," said McCarthy, a Republican from California.
"I think security is becoming the top issue that I'm hearing (from lawmakers), especially in the last two weeks," McCarthy added.
Three people were killed and nine wounded at the clinic in Colorado Springs on Friday. Robert Lewis Dear, 57, was expected to face multiple counts of murder and attempted murder in the attack.
Planned Parenthood has said reports that the shooter told investigators "no more baby parts" after his arrest showed he had an anti-abortion agenda.
McCarthy said he personally opposes spending tax dollars on funding for Planned Parenthood, but sidestepped questions about whether there would be a provision to defund the organization in the bill bankrolling the government through next September. The deadline for passage is Dec. 11.
He also brushed aside suggestions that Republican rhetoric had played any role in encouraging attacks on Planned Parenthood.
"This individual, this shooting, the thing that drove him most was he was a very evil, crazy man," McCarthy said.
Conservatives have accused Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit that provides a range of health services, including abortion, of illegally selling baby parts, an accusation it strongly denies.
Later this week, the Senate is expected to take up another measure cutting off federal funding for Planned Parenthood, according to Senate aides. Called a budget reconciliation bill, it would also repeal parts of President Obama's healthcare law. A similar measure has already passed the House.
While Obama would be expected to veto the reconciliation bill, handling the Planned Parenthood issue in this way could isolate it from the must-pass government spending bill and minimize the chances of a shutdown.
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