Harry Reid Won’t Say If He’d Shut Down Government to Save Federal Funding for Planned Parenthood

By Dan Joseph | March 2, 2011 | 5:23 PM EST

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

(CNSNews.com) - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) would not say today whether he would be willing to shut down the government to stop a continuing resolution that included language that prohibited federal funding of Planned Parenthood for the rest of this fiscal year.

A continuing resolution that would have funded the government for the rest of the fiscal year that passed the House on Feb. 19 did include an amendment sponsored by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) that would have prohibited federal funding of Planned Parenthood.

Reid never took up that bill in the Senate, however, and on Wednesday, the Senate approved a short-term CR that will fund the government for only two weeks. That short-term CR does not include the Pence amendment prohibiting Planned Parenthood funding.

At a Capitol Hill press conference, CNSNews.com asked Reid if he would reject a long-term CR--and shut down the government--based solely on the fact that the CR prohibited funding of Planned Parenthood.

Reid did not directly answer the question.

“Listen,” said Reid. “We have--I don’t know the number of riders that they have on this. These riders go from eliminating public broadcasting … but the point is there’s not one thing, they have multiple things. So we're not going to get into this theoretical thing where we're going to shut the government down over eliminating public broadcasting or eliminating the ability to--there’s pollutants in the air. You know, we have some things in Nevada, too, dealing with what they’re cutting the spending as it relates to scientific things, with the Nevada test site, that we have Livermore, Sandia--all of these things have just been whacked and we’re not going to let that happen."

Another reporter then asked Reid whether any of the pro-life provisions in the long-term CR that passed House would make the CR a “non-starter” in the Senate.

“I believe there should be no riders,” said Reid. “We should legislate like we always have legislated. If they have something they want to change in the law, run it through their committees, pass it over there, send it over here. Don’t lump it to some spending bill that we’re all trying to work together to fund the government.”

Sen. Charles Schumer (D.-N.Y.) then said he thought it was a “good sign” that the short-term CR that the House and Senate had agreed to enact to keep the government funded for two more weeks included no “riders.”

“And by the way, it was a good sign that in their short-term proposal they didn’t put in any of the riders, they realized what poison they are to coming to an agreement,” Schumer said.

Planned Parenthood said in its most recent annual report that it took in $349.6 million in government funds in fiscal 2008. The organization has also reported that it performed 324,008 abortions in 2008.

Earlier this week, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) similarly dodged a question of whether the House Republican leadership was willing to approve a long-term CR if it did not prohibit funding for Planned Parenhood.

“I think that we’re trying to demonstrate right now we don’t want to see a shutdown and there will be no policy changes in  the temporary CR,” Cantor said in response to a question from CNSNews.com. “However, in the long-term, again for the remaining of the fiscal year, is up to Harry Reid to answer to the members of his body and then, thus, their constituents as to where they stand and why he is fearful of holding a vote on some of these issues is really the question to be asked.”

When CNSNews.com followed with Cantor Press Secretary Laena Fallon to see if Cantor would give a direct answer to the question of whether the Republican leadership would rule out supporting a CR that permitted Planned Parenthood funding, she said: “The House has already made it very clear that we do not support tax dollars going to Planned Parenthood funding and the Pence amendment to accomplish this limitation was approved with bipartisan support in the 7-month CR. As Eric said, we now need to see where the Senate stands on this and other big issues.”

The House approved the Pence amendment 240 to 185. It said: “None of the funds made available by this Act may be made available for any purpose to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc., or any of the … affiliates of Planned Parenthood of America, Inc.”

Unless the Republican-majority House agrees to permit Planned Parenthood funding after the new two-week CR expires, Planned Parenthood would not be able to receive federal funds for the rest of the year. Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7 of the Constitution states: “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.”

No appropriation can become law unless the majority of the House of Representatives approves it