WASHINGTON -- Republicans shutting down the government in a bid to defund Planned Parenthood would be like choosing to get kicked by a mule, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday, vowing that no such thing would happen on his watch.
A number of prominent Republicans -- including reality TV star Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) -- have suggested doing just that to punish the women's health care provider over a series of sting videos.
It's the same tactic that GOP lawmakers tried in 2013, when they shut down federal agencies for 16 days in an attempt to strip funding for the Affordable Care Act. That bid failed, and Republicans suffered the blame, much as they did when then-Speaker Newt Gingrich led a shutdown during the Clinton administration.
But McConnell, who counseled against such a move two years ago, flatly rejected that strategy in a Capitol Hill news conference on Thursday.
"There's an old Kentucky saying that there's no education in the second kick of a mule. We've been down this path before," McConnell said. "This is a tactic that's been tried going back to the '90s, frequently by Republican majorities that always have the same ending."
"The focus is on the fact that the government is shut down, not on what the underlying issue that is being protested is," he said of the public's response.
Funding for the federal government runs out at the end of September, and Congress has so far passed none of the 12 appropriations bills that are required to keep the money flowing. So there's already going to be heated negotiation over spending once Congress gets back to business on Sept. 8, and McConnell said he would find some other way to deal with Planned Parenthood.
"What Planned Parenthood is engaged in is truly outrageous," McConnell said, referring to claims that the organization's fetal tissue donation program is some sort baby-parts profit mill. "The videos are beyond disturbing. The question is, what is the best way to go forward."
He suggested that the proper route to investigate Planned Parenthood is through the Judiciary Committee, whose chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), has already said he's making inquiries.
Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.