Democrats agree to $38B in cuts; riders still in play
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By JAKE SHERMAN
| 4/8/11 9:12 AM EDT Updated: 4/8/11 10:34 AM EDT
The government will shut down today, unless Republicans do what their base loathes, but Washington knows is necessary: strike a compromise with Democrats and President Barack Obama
That’s what it comes down to Friday, as the current stopgap
funding measure expires at midnight, placing the immediate employment of 800,000 workers in jeopardy, and both political parties at huge risk a year and a half before a presidential election.
Obama, who made a late public entry into the fight, said he expects “an answer in the morning” from Speaker John Boehner
(R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
(D-Nev.) as to whether Congress can agree on how many tens of billions of dollars should be cut from federal ledgers from now until the end of September.
On Friday morning, Reid told reporters that the latest number floated was $78 billion in cuts from Obama’s fiscal 2011 proposal — or about $38 billion in real cuts.
Staff negotiators worked until 3 a.m. Friday, and all sides seem to indicate they are very close to a final number in terms of cuts, but the negotiations continue to be hung up on social policy riders, most notably funding for Planned Parenthood
Republicans continue to insist on cutting off funds for Planned Parenthood, turning the battle to fund the government into part of the overarching culture war on Capitol Hill. Republicans say bringing Planned Parenthood into the fray is a spending issue, as they told voters they’d concentrate on jobs and the economy, not cultural issues.
Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, said, “While nothing will be decided until everything is decided, the largest issue is still spending cuts. The American people want to cut spending to help the private sector create jobs – and the Democrats that run Washington don’t.”
Boehner would not say definitively whether he was willing to shut the government down over certain riders. “We’re going to continue to work our way through all of this and there’s no reason to draw any lines in the sand to make this more difficult than it already is,” he said.
Republicans have offered the president and Democrats $39 billion in cuts, including slashes to the Pentagon. Democrats are calling for $34.5 billion in – a major concession – but appear to be resisting limitations on abortion funding.
Boehner will face the members of his House Republican Conference Friday afternoon over pizza in the basement of the Capitol. With no other major legislation pending – the House was scheduled to be out Friday – spending is sure to be the topic.
He’ll be confronted by a conference filled with neophyte politicians who seem to see any capitulation as breaking a promise they made to voters. Top GOP aides are split on whether they’d be able to pass a figure in the neighborhood of $39 billion, noting it’s completely dependent on what riders end up in the legislation.
Several sources say language could be added into the bill to limit how Title X funding could be spent.
Republicans want to pass any funding agreement with the support of their own members without having to rely on Democratic votes. Should they complete that daunting task, Boehner will emerge from this funding skirmish as a victor; if Democrats are needed to pull the measure across the finish line, his hand is weakened.
“I think we’re very close,” Rep. Steny Hoyer
, the House minority whip, told NBC’s “Today” Friday morning. “I think we’ve come 70 percent of the way in terms of dollars. That’s a long way to go in trying to reach compromise.”
House Republicans Thursday passed a one-week extension for federal funding that cuts $12 billion from spending, but funds the Defense Department for the remainder of the fiscal year.
Senate Democrats put that measure on the calendar, but are more likely to amend it and send it back to the House if a deal is not reached.
House Appropriations Chair Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) has said that he would pass a short-term, clean extension of government funding if a deal was in the offing.