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Editorial: Reconciliation: another futile GOP attack on Planned Parenthood

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc., testifies before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Sept. 29.

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc., testifies before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Sept. 29.

(Michael Reynolds / EPA)

Give the Republican majority in Congress credit for abandoning its threat to shut down the federal government in a futile effort to stop funding for Planned Parenthood. Instead, Republicans now aim to attack Planned Parenthood though a powerful budgetary tool called reconciliation, which, unlike a spending bill, cannot be filibustered in the Senate.

This shift in tactics will be good for the country, avoiding the needless and economically damaging disruption that a second government shutdown in 24 months would have caused. But the GOP’s new approach won’t hit its target either: President Obama will veto any effort to stop Medicaid from funding the health services that Planned Parenthood provides to low-income women, as well he should. (Remember, those services do not include abortions, which federal Medicaid dollars do not pay for.) And it’s not clear how the maneuvering will help Republicans, who seem intent on showing what they can’t accomplish.

Because Congress hasn’t finished work on any of the annual spending bills for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, lawmakers need to pass a temporary measure by the end of Wednesday to finance education and health grants, national parks and every other program that isn’t on autopilot. Driven by a few dozen Republicans eager for a showdown, the House proposed a stopgap funding bill that would have cut Planned Parenthood off from federal dollars. That measure died at the hands of a Senate Democrat filibuster, leaving House Republicans divided between the ones who wanted to force a shutdown and those who did not.

Members with cooler heads, such as soon-to-be-former Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), eventually came up with the reconciliation alternative. Not to waste the opportunity, House Republicans have proposed to use the reconciliation bill to repeal key provisions of the Affordable Care Act as well. The repeal will save money, they argue, by leading fewer poor Americans to sign up for subsidized health insurance — as if that should be anyone’s goal. Just as bad, the reconciliation bill could cause health premiums to skyrocket by eliminating the parts of the 2010 law designed to hold down insurers’ costs but not the parts that raised them.

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Although they acknowledge that the reconciliation bill will be vetoed, Republicans argue that a veto will nevertheless help them show why it would be better to have a Republican than a Democrat in the White House. But there’s never been any mystery about the differences between the two parties on abortion and Obamacare. The only real winners from a veto would be the American public, who would be spared the effects of a desperate attempt to score political points at their expense.

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