Abortion Bills Advance, Setting Up a Showdown
WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans said on Thursday that they would take up legislation outlawing all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and the House voted to move forward with a bill that would end government financing for Planned Parenthood, intensifying a fight over abortion that threatened to paralyze budget talks and force a government shutdown at the end of the month.
Despite the Republicans’ push, which was a response to videos showing Planned Parenthood executives discussing the use of aborted fetuses in medical research, there were also signs that congressional leaders were counting on a fallback plan to keep the government functioning temporarily, roughly at last year’s spending levels.
The return to center stage of abortion, an issue that has divided Washington and the country for generations, signaled just how bitterly partisan the political climate had recently become — driven by a powerful and unyielding group of hard-right lawmakers in the House — and how difficult it has become for the White House and congressional leaders to perform even the most basic responsibilities of governing.
While forestalling a shutdown, a temporary funding measure would set the stage for a fierce budget fight this fall between President Obama, who says increased spending is needed to spur economic growth, and Republican congressional leaders, who believe mandatory cuts have forced restraint on government spending.
That spending fight could coincide with other battles over the need to raise the nation’s debt ceiling and replenish the Highway Trust Fund, which finances the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges and will run out of money Oct. 29.