Senate Republicans are preparing to introduce as early as Tuesday a short-term spending bill to avert a government shutdown at the end of the month, according to Senate aides from both parties.
The move comes after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) spent weeks waiting for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to identify a strategy to avoid a shutdown and buy enough time for Republicans to hash out a long-term budget deal with Democrats. But a group of anti-abortion members is promising to vote against any bill that contains funding for Planned Parenthood, paralyzing efforts to move a stop-gap spending bill in the House.
On Tuesday, McConnell is expected to begin setting up the procedural process that could allow the Senate to complete work on a stop-gap bill by early next week, giving the House just enough time to consider the legislation before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.
Under the plan, the Senate would first vote on a short-term continuing resolution (CR) that would include language blocking funds from going to Planned Parenthood. Democrats will almost certainly have the votes to filibuster that bill. McConnell would then bring up a CR that would extend current discretionary funding levels for up to two and half months without any significant policy changes.
This process is intended to prove that legislation to end funding for the women’s health organization cannot overcome a Senate filibuster and that continuing to press the case will only lead to Republicans being blamed for a shutdown.
McConnell has not publicly announced his plans and his spokesman said Republican leaders are considering all options to avert a shutdown.
If the Senate follows the procedure described by Senate aides, McConnell will also have the opportunity to line up a series of procedural maneuvers to thwart any attempts by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to derail consideration of the stop-gap appropriations bill.
The two Republican presidential candidates were leaders of the movement to defund Planned Parenthood over its abortion policies earlier this year and both have demonstrated their willingness to use the Senate floor to highlight political issues important to their campaigns. Cruz, who was also a major player in the 2013 shutdown fight after giving a 21-hour anti-Obamacare speech on the Senate floor, has made defunding Planned Parenthood a major feature of his presidential run.
If McConnell is successful in pushing the votes through the Senate it could give Boehner the political breathing room to bring up the bill despite the objections from the group of conservatives insisting on a showdown with President Obama over abortion.
Paul Kane contributed to this story