McConnell Won't Risk Shutdown Over Planned Parenthood Funding

The Senate majority leader doesn't want to force the confrontation many conservatives are eager to have.

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 16: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (2-R) speaks to the media after the Republican policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol June 16, 2015 in Washington, DC. Leader McConnell spoke about various issues before the Senate including the defense spending bill. Also pictured is (L-R), Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) Sen. John Thune (R-SD), and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX). (National Journal)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was dismissive Thursday of conservative plans to force a vote to defund Planned Parenthood as part of federal-spending negotiations in September, making clear he has no interest in putting the nation on the brink of another government shutdown.

"One of my favorite Kentucky sayings is there's no education in the second kick of the mule," McConnell told reports Thursday. "We've been down this path before."

McConnell said he would not say what would or would not end up in the short-term spending bill that is due by September 30. But he referenced previous shutdowns, noting that they "always have the same ending, that the focus is on the fact that the government is shutdown, not on what the underlying issue that's being protested is."

McConnell has said repeatedly since taking over as majority leader in January that the Republican Congress will not allow future government shutdowns, but Thursday's remarks represent his most direct response to date to conservatives in both chambers who say they will oppose a funding bill unless it defunds Planned Parenthood

"Look, what Planned Parenthood is engaged in is truly outrageous. The videos are beyond disturbing. The question is what is the best way to go forward," McConnell said, noting that the Senate's vote on Monday, though it failed, at least put members on the record.

Sen. Charles Grassley is conducting an investigation into the matter, McConnell noted, adding: "We intend to continue to pursue the facts and nobody's better at that than Chuck Grassley, and we'll look for other opportunities to make our voices heard on Planned Parenthood."

McConnell also reiterated that the Republican Senate will seek concessions in exchange for raising the nation's debt limit later this fall, perhaps as early as October, but did not elaborate. Still, he added, "We're not going to default on the national debt."