Essential Politics: Planned Parenthood president testifying on Capitol Hill


I'm Christina Bellantoni, the Essential Politics host today. Let's get started.

Circle Dec. 11 in your calendar. That's when, assuming things go smoothly in Washington over the next 40 hours, funding for the federal government is likely to run out.

Sure, counting on things going according to plan has been a bit of a leap of faith over the last few years. And true, lawmakers have blown through deadlines more frequently than not, or at least the process has been ugly on the way to meeting them. But with the Senate expected to clear a spending measure to keep the government open Tuesday and the House to vote Wednesday, it appears a shutdown may have been averted — for the moment.

GOP leaders, wary of another crisis just two years after the last one, opted to leave Planned Parenthood funding for a variety of women's healthcare procedures alone, to the chagrin of presidential candidates like Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who spent more than an hour complaining on the Senate floor Monday about the organization, his own party and "corruption in this town."

No doubt Planned Parenthood, which two new national polls show is more popular at the moment than the Republican Party, will remain in the spotlight.

Tuesday morning Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards will defend the organization against what is sure to be a barrage of attacks from conservative lawmakers who are so upset over controversial videos regarding its practices that they're willing to shut down part of the federal government over them. The hearing in front of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is scheduled for 7 a.m. Pacific time.

The panel's website notes that for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014, Planned Parenthood "reported approximately $1.3 billion in total revenue, of which $528.4 million (41%) is attributed to 'government health services grants and reimbursements.'" It cites a Congressional Budget Office estimate that the organization receives $450 million annually in federal funds. (The government does not provide funding for abortions except in the case of rape, incest or to save the mother's life.)

Each of those polls, from NBC/Wall Street Journal and Pew Research Center, found large majorities of Americans do not want to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood.


We told you Monday about a weekend robocall going into California homes from Carly Fiorina related to an initiative to require parental notification for underage abortions.

On Monday afternoon the pitch returned, this time from Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. He offered support for what seemed to be the same proposed measure that would amend the California Constitution to require parents or a legal guardian of a girl under the age of 18 to be notified in writing before an abortion could be performed. On the call, Gonzalez identified himself as the father of two daughters. The point of the call was to urge supporters to gather signatures on petitions to get the measure on a 2016 ballot, reports columnist Cathleen Decker.

A group known as Californians for Parental Rights is urging support for a petition for what appears to be the same measure. The group has not responded to inquiries.


-- Patrick McGreevy details the high bar opponents of California's tough new vaccine law must cross to put a referendum on the issue on the November 2016 ballot. It might be a month before officials say if the measure qualifies.

-- Fiorina backers are going on offense, securing friendly letters to newspapers in key states from supportive former HP employees, and funding a slickly produced hour-long ad, presented as a documentary and aimed at voters in Iowa and other early-voting states. The ad describes Fiorina as "a Silicon Valley superstar" and portrays her performance at HP in a highly flattering light, Mark Z. Barabak, Andrea Chang and Seema Mehta report.

-- Just as she announced a new ad on prescription drug prices, Hillary Rodham Clinton called out the CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals by name during a Facebook chat, urging him to lower the cost of a key HIV/AIDS drug, Michael Memoli reports.

-- Lisa Mascaro catches that Sen. Rand Paul is planning two fundraisers for his Senate campaign this week. Could that be a sign he is winding down his sagging presidential campaign?

-- Donald Trump's tax cuts could cost the United States trillions of dollars, experts told Michael Finnegan and James Peltz.

-- With Kevin McCarthy poised to become speaker of the House, Phil Willon spent some time in the Republican's Bakersfield district to find out what his constituents have to say. Watch our video of a few things you might not have known about McCarthy.

-- Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a measure that would have allowed, during off-peak hours, all motorists to use carpool lanes on the 134 Freeway from North Hollywood to Pasadena, and on the 210 Freeway from Pasadena to Glendora, saying he wants to maintain "24/7 carpool lane control."


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