Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) are desperately trying to avoid a government shutdown, and they’re using pro-life organizations to do it.
According to a source with close ties to the pro-life movement, McConnell and Boehner spent the month of August warning pro-life organizations, including National Right to Life, Americans United for Life, Susan B. Anthony List and Family Research Council, against backing conservatives’ efforts to stop taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood, the country’s largest abortion provider, through the Continuing Resolution (CR).
This is a tall order for organizations whose primary focus is ending abortion.
“McConnell and Boehner are just doing this to make it seem like the pro-life groups aren’t unified on the issue,” one source with close ties to the pro-life movement said who was granted anonymity to speak candidly.
Many in Congress and throughout the country have been calling for a halt on federal funds to Planned Parenthood after undercover videos by the Center for Medical Progress became public in June. The videos depict the organization selling aborted baby parts for profit, which is against federal law.
Each of the aforementioned pro-life organizations refused to comment on whether or not GOP leadership has pressured them to oppose defunding Planned Parenthood through the CR. But National Right to Life has been echoing McConnell’s position that cutting federal funds to Planned Parenthood isn’t something Congress can do until a Republican president is in the White House.
Despite National Right to Life’s silence on the issue, there are a growing chorus of conservative aides who say the group has become nothing more than an arm of the Republican establishment, just carrying out orders from McConnell.
“When it comes to strategy and actually scoring votes they’re terrible,” one senior aide on Capitol Hill told Conservative Review. “They’ve gotten very cozy with leadership. They consider themselves to be legislative experts so when people in Congress put forward good [anti] abortion amendments they (National Right to Life) won’t support it. They actually actively work against it.”
Republicans have enough votes in the House to pass a CR that doesn’t fund Planned Parenthood. However, the Senate would require all 54 Republicans and six Democrats to reach the 60-vote mark in order to break a filibuster by the Democrats. Establishment Republicans claim there aren’t enough votes in the Senate to do so, however in 2009 a Democrat controlled Congress voted overwhelmingly to removed federal funding from a scandal ridden ACORN.
Similar to the recently released videos from the Center for Medical Progress, another watchdog group, led by James O’Keefe, used a series of undercover videos to expose ACORN for unethical and potentially illegal activity. Ultimately legislation removing federal funds from ACORN was signed into law by President Obama, despite Republicans being in the minority of both chambers of Congress.
“Waiting until we have a Republican in the White House doesn’t make any sense because we still won’t be able to get to 60 votes in the Senate,” the senior aide said. “Plus, Republicans will be even less likely to try to defund it, because if the government shuts down they really won’t be able to blame Democrats.”
National Right to Life’s cozying up to leadership isn’t just a recent trend, but something the group has been doing for quite some time.
“When you’re too close to Capitol Hill it becomes a lifestyle of easy give and take, instead of remembering the old adage that politics is war by other means,” a senior House staffer said of National Right to Life. “You’re actually dealing with life and death issues and some of them are important enough to stand up for. Actually speaking to all of the lives that will be lost. All of the baby parts that will be sold. All of the born-alive infants who will be dismembered and sold to the highest bidder. All of that’s going to take place with taxpayer dollars, because shutting down the government’s controversial. If the Republican party can’t stand up to start this barbaric practice than they’re no different than the Democrats.”
A former Republican aide on Capitol Hill said National Right to Life would actively get involved just to benefit the establishment’s agenda.
The former aide cited the passage of Medicare Part D in 2003, a vote National Right to Life scored in order to get pro-life Republicans such as then Congressman Jim DeMint (R-SC) to vote in favor of a massive new entitlement program. DeMint voted against legislation and National Right to Life marked it against his pro-life rating.
The establishment-led legislation barely passed the Senate 54-44 and the House 220-115, making the National Right to Life’s support for the legislation key to passage.
“[National Right to Life] put fiscal conservatives in a tough spot by scoring final passage of the massive new drug entitlement Medicare Part D because it contained an ostensibly pro-life provision protecting end of life decisions,” the former aide said. “Fiscal conservatives were forced to choose between supporting a massive expansion of the federal government—and the corollary explosion in spending due to an open-ended entitlement–or see a downgrade in their pro-life score with [National Right to Life].”
“Yet, when the shoe is on the other foot, [National Right to Life] refuses to stand on principle and score tough votes that will harm Establishment Republicans,” the former Republican aide continued. “Their refusal to score the votes for the CR as a vote funding the abhorrent practices of [Planned Parenthood] exposed in the Center for Medical Progress, is a textbook example of a DC-insider organization protecting the status quo and providing cover to Establishment Republicans.”
Blaze Bullock is a Political Reporter at Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @BullockBlaze.