As one of his last moves as House Speaker, John Boehner set the House on course to avoid a government shutdown by advancing a stopgap spending measure free of a dispute over Planned Parenthood's taxpayer funding.
Boehner, R-Ohio, shocked his colleagues Friday by saying he would leave the House at the end of next month. The announcement came after he informed conservatives privately on Thursday afternoon that he would reject their demand to use a must-pass government-wide funding bill as a means to carry the battle against Planned Parenthood to President Barack Obama.
Boehner wants to avoid a repeat of the 2013 partial government shutdown over implementation of Obama's health care law.
The temporary measure is needed to avoid a shutdown at midnight on Wednesday. It would fund the government through Dec. 11.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., offered his bipartisan measure following a decisive vote blocking a GOP-backed bill that would have stripped Planned Parenthood of its taxpayer funding while keeping the government running through Dec. 11.
The vote was 52-47 against the measure, 13 votes shy of the 60 required to overcome a filibuster led by Democrats. Eight Republicans, several of them supporters of abortion rights, voted with 42 Democrats and two independents.
McConnell has for almost a year promised that Republicans controlling Congress won't repeat the government shutdown of two years ago.
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 tea party Republicans want over "defunding" Planned Parenthood.
"I think we all know we're going to have a clean CR," said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. "The House is going to figure out what the House is going to do but we can't shut down the government."
Planned Parenthood has long been a target for Republicans, but the release of secretly recorded videos that raised questions about its handling of fetal tissue provided to scientific researchers has infuriated anti-abortion Republicans and added urgency to their efforts against the group. The group says it is doing nothing wrong and isn't violating federal law against profiting from such practices.
The Senate's vote, and the bipartisan measure that followed, cranks up the pressure on the GOP-controlled House. There, GOP leaders have been stymied in their hopes to pass a continuing resolution.
McConnell scheduled a vote on the bipartisan measure for Monday night. A house vote is likely on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Reeling from shock over Boehner's resignation, Republicans at Friday's closed-door meeting generally embraced a leadership plan to craft 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 Planned Parenthood, most of which goes to provide health services to the poor via the Medicaid program. The measure also contains $700 million in emergency funding to fight Western wildfires.
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