WASHINGTON--With a little less than 12 hours left to avoid a federal government shutdown, Democrats are saying Friday a GOP bid to defund Planned Parenthood female health services, such as cancer screenings and family planing is holding up a deal--in a proxy fight over abortion. Republicans are saying the holdup is over spending cuts that are not deep enough.
"The big fight is over spending," House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said at 1:04 p.m. est. at a press conference at the Capitol. He sidestepped a direct question about Title 10 Planned Parenthood defunding. "Almost all the policy (issues) have been delt with," Boehner said.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on the Senate floor Friday morning said an agreement had been made between the Republicans and Democrats on the amount of spending cuts on Thursday night, but there is no overall deal because "of the insistence of the House Republicans" to "virtually devastate the Title 10 family planning program. Let me ask you something. In the big national debate in the last election over the future of our country and what we would do with our deficit, how many times do you remember this issue coming up?"
Durbin makes a point.My take: It could be the Republicans, pushed by the Tea Party factions in their ranks put the contentious social issues on the table in order to trade them at the last minute for deeper spending cuts. After all, this entire fight is over the fy2011 budget--the six months or so left to it. The social issue fight can be left for the upcoming battles over the pending fy2012 budget, with a dramatic switch of spending priorities offered up by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.).
Ryan is scheduled to be in Chicago on Monday, April 11: He is booked for a Republican Jewish Coalition roundtable downtown.
Here's the noon (est) update on a dramatic day:
*The Democrat Senators caucus at 2 p.m. est for an update on budget negotiations.
*President Obama spoke separately to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) by phone on Friday. Over the past two days, two leaders have met with Obama four times at the White House.
Boehner on Friday morning in the Capitol: "There's only one reason that we do not have an agreement as yet, and that issue is spending. We're close to a resolution on the policy issues. But I think the American people deserve to know when will the White House and when will Senate Democrats get serious about cutting spending. A bill that fails to include real spending cuts will hurt job growth and signal that Washington's not serious about dealing with its spending addiction. And I think the Senate should follow the House lead and pass the troop funding bill and do it today. And I also believe the president should sign the troop funding bill into law. This is the responsible thing to do to support our troops and to keep our federal government open."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Friday morning, from the Senate floor: "Let's be very clear about this: if the government shuts down, it's either because Democrats are pretending that a previously non-controversial provision is suddenly out of bounds. Or they refuse to take another baby step in the direction of balancing the government checkbook, something we know the American people want. Neither reason is worth a shutdown -- especially when neither side actually wants one. And that's why I believe there will be an agreement here shortly. I've been in many negotiations over the years. I assure you, these are not un-resolvable issues."
McConnell has a point: "First, that the whole reason we're in this mess is that Democrats abdicated their responsibility to keep the government funded through this year." The debate is over fy2011 spending; a budget could have been locked in last year, when Democrats still controlled the House.