Planned Dysfunction

We appear to be heading for another government shutdown, this time courtesy of Republican abortion foes seeking to defund government support for Planned Parenthood. Positions on abortion aside, the question is what good it will do to “take a stand” by shutting down the government.

Insisting on a vote will allow the Republicans to accomplish two things. It will show its anti-abortion base that it is crusading on their behalf and force Democrats to cast a pro-choice vote that will figure in horrifying campaign ads showing them to be on favor of dismembering fetuses.

The problem is, this grandstanding up to and including shutting down the government will be showy, but will not change the law on abortion or government funding for Planned Parenthood. It will annoy and inconvenience a lot of people who depend on government services.

This would seem like a teaching moment for President Obama, He’s had many during his presidency that he has failed take advantage of. Either he has naively believed the correctness of his positions was too obvious to need reinforcing or has pessimistically concluded his foes are beyond persuading. But, as a lawyer and professor, you’d think he’d choose to make his case and give the electorate a refresher course in Government 101.

He might say: “My Fellow Citizens. Once again the Democratic and Republican parties disagree on a piece of legislation before Congress. That’s okay. The framers of the Constitution anticipated a lack of unanimity and designed a system to deal with it.

“This time the issue is funding for Planned Parenthood, founded 1916, which provides a great deal of helpful medical help to less affluent women, especially in the areas of reproductive health, including screening for cancer and HIV, as well as birth control services. It has over 800 clinics in the United States caring for millions of women. If Planned Parenthood did not exist, either some other health providers would have to perform its functions or many women would go without care.

“Since 1970, under President Nixon, Planned Parenthood has received some of its funding from the federal government. Today, the government is responsible for roughly a third of its funding. In addition to offering contraceptive services, Planned Parenthood has chosen to offer abortion which is the source of this controversy, but by law no federal funds may be used for that purpose.

“Abortion foes want to deny any government funding to Planned Parenthood so long as it also provides abortions. Others disagree. Republicans have introduced bills to defund. They will be voted on in House and Senate. If they pass, I will veto them. Then, as provided for in Article I, Sec. 7 of the Constitution, the Republicans will have the option to override my veto by a two-thirds vote in each house, that is 67 Senators and 290 Representatives.

‘Since they do not have that many votes, their only options then will be to persuade some members to change their vote, offer more moderate legislation likely to pass, or admit they are not presently in a position to get their way and resolve to increase their majority in the next election or win the presidency.

“Instead, some Republicans intend to attempt to bully their colleagues and the president into acceding to their legislative demands by shutting down the government, making life miserable for the American public and potentially putting them at risk. To this end they will cut off funding to the military, national parks, schools, courts, medical research, courts, prisons, homeland security, veterans care, entitlements for senior citizens, school lunches for poor children– all the everyday, useful, agreed upon functions of the government of the United States.

“In effect they propose to punish the people the people for their own inability to muster enough votes to get their way democratically. This is more like a child throwing a tantrum or threatening to hold its breath until it turns blue. Except it is their fellow citizens who will be hurt.

“I’m sorry my fellow Americans will be forced to suffer by this maneuver, but a Congress or President who could be coerced or blackmailed by a minority to act against their best judgement would be betraying Constitutional principles and their duty as public servants, in effect exchanging democracy for rule by the angry few.”

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