Republican leaders Senator Mitch McConnell and John Boehner speak after a bipartisan meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House in WashingtonThree of the four steps plotted by the GOP leadership in Congress to allow their caucus to cast meaningless show votes against abortion and defunding Planned Parenthood are now completed.

Last week House Tea-Publicans voted for the Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015, and the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. The House earlier this year approved an unconstitutional 20-week abortion ban.

The Senate today took up the House Tea-Publican’s unconstitutional 20-week abortion ban, and it failed to get the 60 votes needed for cloture. Democrats block 20-week abortion ban :

Senate Democrats on Tuesday blocked a Republican bill that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The measure failed to advance in a 54-42 vote, falling short of the 60-vote threshold needed.

Democratic Sens. Robert Casey, Jr. (Pa.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.), who all oppose abortion rights, joined Republicans in voting to advance the bill. Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Mark Kirk (Ill.), who support abortion rights, voted against it.

The vote comes amid a roiling debate over Planned Parenthood funding that could lead to a government shutdown on Oct. 1.

Republican leaders are hoping the vote on the 20-week abortion ban, which comes the same day that Pope Francis arrives in Washington, will help give members a chance to register their anti-abortion views without running the risk of a government shutdown.

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Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.), meanwhile, accused McConnell of “pandering to the extremists in his party” while the clock ticks toward a shutdown.

“Instead of coming to grips with the reality of the situation, and working with Democrats to avoid a government shutdown, the Republicans seem more interested in political theater,” Reid said.

The fourth act in this Shutdown Kabuki Theater is to advance legislation that would redirect Planned Parenthood funding to community health centers and fund the government until Dec. 11. Senate moves to prevent shutdown:

kabukiThe action sets up a Thursday vote, the same day Pope Francis speaks to a historic joint session of Congress.

Democrats will filibuster the stopgap funding measure because of the Planned Parenthood rider, setting up votes on a so-called “clean” continuing resolution next week.

Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the Senate’s No. 3 Republican, said the House and Senate had been in talks and leaders decided that it was better for the Senate to move forward first, to show [the House] that a funding bill cutting off Planned Parenthood would fail.

“It was concluded that giving the Senate ball control by taking the first whack at this and demonstrating what the traffic will bear in terms of where the votes are in the Senate, would give the House an indication of where we are,” Thune said.

Thune said a “clean” spending bill without defunding could come up after that vote fails on Thursday.

“And then we’ll go to plan B, and I don’t know at that point whether that means the Senate would lead or the House would lead,” Thune said.

McConnell is expected to move Thursday to a clean stopgap funding measure, stripped of riders, which would be sent over to the House shortly before the deadline to avoid a shutdown.

All of this assumes that the mutinous GOP House Freedom Caucus and its nominal leader in the Senate, Ted “Calgary” Cruz, are willing to play along, which does not appear at all likely.

The compressed timeline may require lawmakers to work over the weekend if Tea Party favorites such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) throw up procedural objections to a stopgap that allows Planned Parenthood to receive funding.

“I think we should stand for principle and not capitulate to President Obama,” Cruz told reporters.

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House GOP leaders will huddle Thursday after Pope Francis’s address to Congress to discuss the steps forward on government funding and Planned Parenthood, according to a GOP aide.

They will hold a closed-door conference meeting Friday morning to discuss the plan with rank-and-file.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said the House will be ready to “act quickly.”

“The most important thing is that we keep the government open for business so that we provide stability to our economy and continue vital federal programs on which all Americans rely,” he said. “I am pleased that there is forward legislative momentum in the Senate to avoid a government shutdown.”

Congress must pass a short-term funding measure by Oct. 1 to avoid a shutdown.

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Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) accused McConnell of wasting time. He noted the Senate has already voted on a bill to defund Planned Parenthood and that the GOP leader has acknowledged that only a clean stopgap can get signed into law.

“The Republican leader has had all these empty show votes,” he said. “This is a waste of time in the Senate and certainly is not helpful to the American people.

“There’s no time for another unnecessary shutdown crisis. We’re going to move to a clean [continuing resolution] on Thursday,” he added. “The rules of the Senate are very complicated sometimes and one or two or three or four senators can create a lot of problems on the floor.”

Cruz and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who are both running for president and trying to appeal to Tea Party voters, said Tuesday they would oppose a clean stopgap.

Earlier this month, the GOP House Freedom Caucus, which is plotting a mutiny against the TanMan, Weeper of the House John Boehner, pledged that they would not vote for any funding measure that does not defund Planned Parenthood. Freedom Caucus: No on Any Planned Parenthood Funding:

[T]he conservative House Freedom Caucus took their seventh official position: They will oppose any spending bill that doesn’t defund Planned Parenthood.

“Given the appalling revelations surrounding Planned Parenthood, we cannot in good moral conscience vote to send taxpayer money to this organization while still fulfilling our duty to represent our constituents. We must therefore oppose any spending measure that contains funding for Planned Parenthood.”

It’s a significant statement from the conservative group. It takes a four-fifths majority for the Freedom Caucus to take an official position, meaning Republicans would probably need Democratic votes to pass a CR if HFC members make good on their pledge.

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[T]he HFC is staking out a clear position on Planned Parenthood and the CR. The group is practically daring Speaker John A. Boehner and other GOP leaders to try putting forth a stopgap spending measure that funds Planned Parenthood.

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With at least 42 members, the House Freedom Caucus could cause some vote problems. Additionally, more members are joining almost every week. (Rep. Randy Weber, R-Texas, recently told CQ Roll Call that he would be joining the HFC.) On top of the Freedom Caucus, there are a number of lawmakers who have signed onto a letter circulated before the August recess by Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., pledging to oppose any spending bill that funds Planned Parenthood.

Members who have signed the Mulvaney letter but are not known Freedom Caucus members include: Reps. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, Trent Kelly of Mississippi, Louie Gohmert of Texas and John J. Duncan Jr. of Tennessee, along with North Carolina Reps. Walter B. Jones, David Rouzer and Mark Walker, according to tracking of signatures by the conservative advocacy group Heritage Action for America.

If the TanMan is forced to turn to Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats to pass a “clean” CR to keep the government running on October 1, that is when the trap that was set back in July by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) to remove John Boehner as Speaker may finally be sprung by his mutinous crew. They are daring the TanMan to turn to Democrats so they can try to remove him.

And if the GOP House Freedom Caucus fails to follow through on its threats, they will be dismissed as all talk and no action by the GOP crazy base.