The resignation of Speaker John Boehner should help Republicans unite behind conservative principles and to reach a constructive consensus on the right strategies to advance those principles. In that context, shutting down the government to score political points isn’t illegal or immoral, but it is a suicidal strategy in which short-term failure is guaranteed. As Senator Kelly Ayotte points out, even if all 54 Republican Senators vote to defund Planned Parenthood, they’d still need 13 Democrats to side with them to overcome the president’s certain veto, and there’s no chance of getting those votes.
This means that the government would re-open sooner or later with Planned Parenthood still funded, and Republicans would be universally blamed for a pointless disruption. Why? First of all, because many conservatives have been openly promoting a shutdown, which gives them little credibility if they then try to blame Democrats. It’s also a sad fact that federal support for Planned Parenthood has been part of the budget for 45 years, ever since the Nixon administration, so an attempt to defund represents dramatic change.
Conservatives are right to push for that significant change as a matter of principle, but progress on this issue is totally impossible with a Democratic president who is unwilling to cooperate in any way. To shut down the government temporarily under Obama won’t hurt Planned Parenthood, and it won’t hurt the president or his party, but it could very well do great damage to Republicans and conservative credibility.