Is the Planned Parenthood “Defunding” Meltdown Unmelting?

You may remember a few weeks ago when much of the conservative universe exploded in threats to blow up the congressional Republican Party if it did not drag the federal government into a sustained shutdown to force the elimination of all federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Here’s how political commissar Erick Erickson of Redstate put it:

If Republicans are not willing to make this their hill to die on and even see the government shutdown to stop this, the Republican Party needs to be shut down.

The Party of Lincoln that rose from the ashes of a whig Party that would not stand up to slavery must stand up to this evil. The American public is staring evil in the face and it looks a lot like them. It must end.

If Abraham Lincoln’s party will not fight to stop a practice that defends itself with the same arguments used by proponents of slavery, it is time for a new party….

You will be made to care about this. You will not be allowed to sit by and make excuses. You will be not be allowed to say it is tissue, goo, or innocent. These are human beings. These are the future of this country harvested for their organs. They are being killed. The arguments in support of it are the arguments in support of slavery. This is evil and you must care….

This is really, really simple.

If Republicans do not defund Planned Parenthood, they will see a great portion of their base vanish overnight. That is not an exaggeration.

Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee, Carly Fiorina, and for a time Donald Trump, all jumped on board the shut-down-the-government train. It looked to be one of those train wrecks rapidly approaching Washington, and given the hate-frenzy gripping the conservative “base” towards party leaders that expressed itself via the Trump noom, it didn’t seem that Mitch McConnell’s usual assurances that there would be no shutdown would make much difference.

But now, according to National Journal‘s Andrea Drusch, a recess letter pledging to defund-Planned-Parenthood-no-matter-what isn’t gaining much ground among House Republicans, even the base-sensitive folk looking for a promotion to the Senate:

This time last summer, a letter pledging to oppose any government-funding bill that included money to implement Obamacare was surging through the House GOP. Eventually, more than one-third of the GOP conference signed the letter, including top Senate candidates like Bill Cassidy and Steve Daines.

Two years later, a similar recess letter about Planned Parenthood has not gained the same momentum, with just 18 House Republicans signing on. And this time, Senate candidates like Rep. Marlin Stutzman of Indiana and Rep. Ron DeSantis of Florida are notable because they have declined to join the signers.

Both face competitive, multiway Republican primaries in their states. Both are taking care to position themselves as the most conservative candidate running for the GOP nomination. But in a signal of how the Planned Parenthood letter has not caught on like Obamacare did two years ago, neither congressman has signed onto the document pledging not to support “an appropriations bill, an omnibus package, a continuing resolution, or otherwise—that contains any funding for Planned Parenthood, including mandatory funding streams.”

Can Pope Erick ignore this clear defiance of his authority? Will this be Ted Cruz’s next attention-grabbing crusade? It’s hard to say, but clearly, the attention span of angry conservatives is questionable.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.