The Sticking Point
Ryan Grim with the latest:
The United States government is on the verge of shutting down over a dispute about subsidized pap smears. The White House and Senate Democrats have publicly capitulated to ever increasing GOP demands for spending cuts, but the negotiations over whether to shut down the government no longer hinge on money but instead are focused on so-called riders: Provisions in a budget that restrict the federal government from spending money on certain projects or entities.
Riders are used by members of Congress to make social policy without going through the regular congressional committee process, or they are used to benefit business interests by specifically blocking the government from spending money to write or enforce certain regulations.
At a late-night White House meeting between the president and key congressional leaders, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) made clear that House Republicans would not approve funding for the government if any money were allowed to flow to Planned Parenthood through legislation known as Title X. “This comes down to women's health issues related to Title X,” a person in the meeting told HuffPost
I could certainly be wrong -- these people are just that nuts --- but I still have a sneaking suspicion that the Republicans don't really want to shut down government over Planned Parenthood and that the Democrats know it. There are plenty of members, including John Boehner, who remember the shutdown of 1995 and know shutting down over social issues rather than budget issues will not accrue to their favor.
As I've written for the last couple of months, I expect that President Obama and the Democrats will "win" on that --- as they agree to painful draconian cuts to the budget in every other way. If he doesn't, I don't think anyone can calculate the harm he will have done to his base and I would imagine even Independents who don't care at all about these issues will think less of him for it. No, I still think this will be his victory in the negotiations. Even the crazy Republicans know it's good to give him something --- and both sides have always thrown their culture warriors to the curb when necessary.
I saw forced childbirth zealot Bachman on CNN yesterday saying that it was time to move on to defund Obamacare. I'm fairly sure she's a good wingnut/Tea Party bellwether on this. (On the other hand, it's fair to assume that she may not be in the loop, so who knows? )
Update: John Boehner says it isn't about Planned Parenthood at all and that it's really about spending. Again, I will truly be shocked if this doesn't end up being a huge capitulation on spending in exchange for "saving" Planned Parenthood. If it isn't, the GOP has signed its own 2012 death warrant.
Update II: Phil Klein at the Washington Examiner is on the same wavelength:
The gist of their remarks was this:
What this suggests to me is that the ultimate deal, as most veteran observers expected all along, will be that Democrats will agree to more spending cuts and that Republicans will agree to drop the Planned Parenthood provision. By making the statements they have today, when a deal is reached, Reid and President Obama could tell the frustrated liberal base that they fought to protect "women's health" (their euphamism for Planned Parenthood). Meanwhile. Boehner will tout the spending cuts they were able to extract from Reid in the face of conservative criticism for caving on funding for the nation's largest abortion provider.
There will probably be defections from the right and left when the final deal comes up for a vote, just like on last year's tax deal, but ultimately, they'll be able to cobble together enough votes to avert a shutdown.
Get ready to clap louder, folks.
PS: By the way, as Sarah Posner points out here, this isn't really about abortion and it's hard to believe the GOP will really shut down the government because they don't want women to have pap smears:
Here's a misleading headline from this morning's New York Times: "As Latest Talks on Budget Fail, Democrats Cite Abortion Funds." But it's not about abortion funds, it's about the rider that Republicans have attached to the budget preventing federal funds, including Medicaid funding for low-income women, from going to Planned Parenthood, which by law cannot be used for abortions anyway. The funding Republicans seek to cut is for family planning, cancer screenings, and sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment.
The article, in fact, is in conflict with the headline:
Democratic officials familiar with the negotiations said that proposed restrictions on money for Planned Parenthood remained the chief sticking point, and that attempts to resolve the disagreement through alternatives like allowing a separate floor vote on the issue had not been successful. Democrats said they were told by the Republicans that the votes of anti-abortion social conservatives would be needed to move any budget measure through the House.
Republicans said that no final agreement on money had been struck, and that both policy and spending issues were causing the impasse.
"The largest issue is still spending cuts," Michael Steel, a spokesman for Mr. Boehner, said Friday morning.
By contrast, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, told reporters in an exchange broadcast on CNN Friday morning that "this all deals with women’s health" and that other issues had been resolved. "It has everything to do with ideology on that other side of the Capitol," he said.
So Democrats didn't cite abortion funds, did they? No, they cited Planned Parenthood funding, and women's health, but not abortion funds. That's because the federal government does not fund abortions. See the Hyde Amendment, which for 30 years has prevented federal funds from being used to pay for abortions.
Update II: Yeah,get out the hand moisturizer. You're going to be doing some serious clapping soon:
Republicans have hit President Barack Obama for being out of touch, disengaged and unwilling to lead on the budget negotiations — and Democrats aren’t wild about his taste for last-minute heroics either.
Administration officials say that’s flat wrong and that Obama’s team has been quietly working with lawmakers for weeks. The president’s late entry into direct talks was a calculated strategy, they say, to avoid overexposing Democrats’ sole marquee star and to gain maximum leverage after House Republicans and Senate Democrats fell short of an agreement.
And to the doubters, they say it works.
Obama staged several eleventh-hour interventions on health care reform. He repeated the tactic with far greater success during last year’s tax-cut debate...