A handful of House conservatives are prepared to defund Planned Parenthood and block an Iran nuclear deal by any means necessary. There is only one problem; they say Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is standing in their way.
“You’re majority leader, you took over the job January 3, 2015. ... You are no longer Harry Reid. You are a Republican, Mitch. Do your job,” Rep. Tim Huelskamp, a Republican from Kansas, said Wednesday during Conversations with Conservatives, a monthly event on Capitol Hill.
As Congress catapults toward an Oct. 1 funding deadline to keep the government’s lights on, conservatives in the House are not just giving Speaker John Boehner grief, as they’ve been wont to do. They want more from McConnell. Conservatives are calling on Republican leaders to promise they won’t put a bill on the floor that includes language to fund Planned Parenthood. The women’s health organization has long been a target for conservatives, but it has more recently come under fire after videos surfaced of the group allegedly discussing tissue procurement of aborted fetuses.
Republicans across Washington agree they’d like to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, but party pragmatists and leaders like Mitch McConnell have pointed out the obvious: The Senate Republicans don’t have the votes.
House conservatives say there is a remedy for that: Get rid of the Senate’s current filibuster rules, and jam it through.
“If we preserve these filibuster rules on both this and, say, Iran, then everybody in here has the right to ask, ‘How would things have been different if Harry Reid were still in charge?'” says Rep. Mick Mulvaney, a Republican from South Carolina. “And the answer would be: 'There is no difference. It is exactly the same and the election did not have any consequences.'”
Sen. Ted Cruz has promised supporters he will lead the effort in the Senate to defund Planned Parenthood through the upcoming funding process, but McConnell has said the Senate simply does not have the 60 votes it would need to overcome a filibuster threat from Democrats. House conservatives aren’t interested in that excuse.
“Mitch is going to have to wake up and figure out at some point, there may be some more important things than some 40-year-old Senate rules,” Mulvaney said.
Boehner has endured years of ridicule from rank-and-file members who berated him for caving in on debt-ceiling showdowns and fiscal cliffs. Ultimately, however, he had a Democratic-controlled Senate to contend with. Now, House members are turning their ire to McConnell, who they say is too willing to surrender now that Republicans have control of the entire Congress.
“The last time I looked back, we are a bicameral—not a unicameral and not a dictatorship—so the process should work, right?” said Rep. Jeff Duncan, a conservative from South Carolina.
It’s not just funding, however, where House conservatives are calling on McConnell to do away with the modern filibuster.
House conservatives also forced their leaders to postpone a procedural vote on a resolution to disapprove the president’s Iran deal Wednesday. Instead, many members are calling for Boehner to not bring anything to the floor until the White House turns over all the documentation that members have asked for regarding the deal. Other conservatives said they want to vote to “approve” instead of “disapprove” of the Iran deal as a way to make it harder for the deal to actually go through.
“One of the ways we have suggested is to actually have a motion of approval where we show we don’t approve the deal,” said Rep. Raul Labrador, a congressman from Idaho. “The Senate should then force a vote on a motion of approval, and they should go nuclear in the Senate and allow that to happen.”
Changing filibuster rules is unlikely. Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker told reporters on Wednesday that it was time for Republicans to move on, and he hopes that the next president may change the deal with Iran. There is no indication that leaders are interested in doing anything to change the precedent of the Senate.