Last night, after a meeting at the White House, John Boehner and Harry Reid issued a terse joint statement. It read, “We have narrowed the issues, however, we have not yet reached an agreement. We will continue to work through the night to attempt to resolve our remaining differences.” President Obama made brief remarks, and he said that he hoped Speaker Boehner would have an answer for him in the morning.
It’s the morning.
And there’s no hint of an agreement, at least not yet. The media has begun to realize, too, that the Republicans are shutting down the government because they don’t like women getting cheap cancer screenings or breathing clean air:
The two sides appeared to be only a few billion dollars apart on the level of spending to be approved for the balance of this year, a relatively small gap in a $3.5 trillion budget. Negotiations appeared to be hung up mostly over Republican demands to tighten restrictions on financing for abortions and to limit environmental regulations, and by Mr. Boehner’s desire to squeeze every dollar in cuts out of the Democrats that he could [...]
The policy disputes involved a handful of provisions. One would greatly limit financing for Planned Parenthood and other family-planning providers, in the United States and overseas, and prevent the District of Columbia from using its tax dollars to help poor women pay for abortions.
Also at issue were measures that would restrict the regulatory powers of the Environmental Protection Agency, a favorite target of Republicans since they took over the House, by preventing the agency from enforcing significant portions of the Clean Air Act and regulating carbon emissions.
If this were about a few billion dollars, the deal would be done faster than a haggle at an Arab souk. This is going to happen, as Ryan Grim says, because John Boehner’s caucus “would not approve funding for the government if any money were allowed to flow to Planned Parenthood through legislation known as Title X.” Interestingly, he posits it as something deeply sought by old-line Republican theocrats, who want to deliver something on social issues, not necessarily the freshmen, who are more motivated by other concerns. I’m not sure there’s all that much difference there, but it makes some sense that the concerns of more powerful House Republicans are driving the negotiations.
This was pre-ordained by John Boehner’s “open rule” for HR 1. It invested whoever passed a rider into getting their rider into a final agreement. Don Young (R-AK) got an amendment passed that exempts the EPA from regulating emissions from oil drilling in Alaska. I suspect he won’t vote for any continuing resolution that doesn’t include that amendment. Now multiply that out by hundreds.
As Dick Durbin said yesterday, this isn’t about the deficit, it’s about bumper stickers. And Chuck Schumer’s points sound correct.
Either way, Democrats have no plans to defund Planned Parenthood at the insistence of House Republicans, Schumer said Thursday night. “We have been against them from the beginning and we’re not changing, nor should we. These are fights that have nothing to do with the deficit,” he said.
Schumer said earlier Thursday that Democrats were ready to meet Boehner’s number, but that Boehner was using money as a distraction so that the public wouldn’t realize his members were fighting over cultural issues.
“The only reason the numbers aren’t solved is because Speaker Boehner knows that if he did that, then everyone would know that it’s the riders, and he doesn’t want that out. But if you look at how many hours in the rooms of negotiators that discussing riders, it’s predominant,” he said. “The Speaker’s folks have admitted that we’ve been fair on the numbers.”
Clearly, the last election was a referendum on whether Planned Parenthood effectively delivers pap smears to women. So at least this makes sense in that context.
Senate Democrats will probably try to pass a clean one-week stopgap today, but the Republicans are likely to filibuster.
Incidentally, while details matter, this shutdown is also about setting up negotiations for the next year and a half on budgetary issues, to see which side will blink. And former Reagan budget director David Stockman senses weakness: “I think the Republicans need to stand rigidly firm and shut the government down for a few days. The Obama White House is weak. If the Republicans hold the line, Obama will fold faster than a lawn chair. And the Republicans will get their $60 billion in reductions.”
That would be true, if this were about money.