- (Photo: AP Images / J. Scott Applewhite)
House Majority Leader John Boehner and the GOP are continuing to push for the passage of a continuing resolution (CR) that would cut federal funds for abortion amid veto threats from President Barack Obama and hurled insults from the likes of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
In the final hours of before a potential government shutdown, House Republicans are pushing Democrats in the Senate to approve a stopgap CR in order to give Congress another week to agree on a budget. Republicans have been successful in passing two previous CRs cutting a total of $10 billion dollars from the budget, including unused census funds and budgetary cuts for education programs. However, Democrats are resisting the latest GOP CR because it will cut Title 10 funds to Planned Parenthood.
The U. S. House already approved the CR, which would finance the military for the balance of the fiscal year and cut $12 billion in spending from the current year’s budget, on Thursday. But Democrats have come out strongly against the bill because a portion of those cuts would strip away federal funds that go to Planned Parenthood and abortion-related services in the District of Columbia.
Sen. Harry Reid charged Friday afternoon that the GOP’s CR sought to cut programs allowing women without insurance to access cancer screenings, blood pressure tests and cholesterol checks. “Republicans want to shut down our nation’s government because they want to make it harder for women to get the services they need,” he asserted.
Reid contended that Title 10 does not fund abortion, but “simple and important health services.” He concluded, “Anyone who says this debate is over abortion isn’t being truthful.”
Eric Sapp, the founding member of the Christian Democrat consultant group the Eleison Group, explained that Democrats believe the GOP's CR is politically motivated rather than focused on avoiding a government shutdown.
"The GOP recognized they had a political problem, especially since they had folks on their side cheering a government shutdown that would mean families of troops in war, who often are living paycheck to paycheck, would have to wait to get paid," Sapp said.
He continued, "If they (Republican leaders) were serious about dealing with what they were going to do to the troops or avoiding a shutdown, they would've done a clean bill that just addressed that problem. Instead, this CR includes additional cuts that are much more severe than anything that had ever been negotiated or proposed by GOP up to this point."
Democrats are fighting against the House CR with a similar stopgap resolution that is "clean" or stripped of all the Republican-proposed cuts.
Reid rightly points out that it is illegal, according to federal law, to use federal funds to pay for abortion. However, the Title 10 program currently funds health care services indiscriminately, giving funding to clinics and organizations that also provide abortions, sometimes in the same building.
The pro-life lobby has blasted Reid for changing his stance when it comes to protecting the unborn. “The fact that the [Senate] majority leader would strip language that merely stops direct taxpayer funding of abortion in our nation’s capital is amazing,” said Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, in a statement. “At one time, Senator Reid considered himself to be pro-life, but now the facade is completely lifted.”
Democrats for Life of America expressed support for the GOP's efforts to block Title 10 funds from going to Planned Parenthood, noting that the abortion provider’s local affiliates are flush with cash. According to DFLA, Washington, D.C.'s affiliate had a total revenue of $7.7 million with $2.2 million cash on hand at the end of 2008. Planned Parenthood of Mar Monte, one of Planned Parenthood's 34 affiliates in California, had $69 million in net assets at the end of 2008.
DFLA is advocating for the funds going to Planned Parenthood to be re-directed to pro-life efforts.
The GOP maintains that it is not they who want to shut down the federal government, but the Democrats.
“We have no interest in shutting down the government,” said Boehner. “That’s why we sent the troop funding bill over to the Senate yesterday and attached to it was a seven-day agreement to keep the government open while continuing to cut spending.”
President Obama has announced since yesterday that he will veto the GOP CR if it reaches his desk. He also ordered federal agencies to prepare for a shutdown, according to White House Office of Management and Budget spokesman Kenneth Baer.
Boehner said of the Democrats' conviction against the resolution, “Neither the president nor Senate Democrats have identified a single policy provision they find objectionable in the bill.”
A Pew Research poll released Monday found that the majority of Americans want politicians to reach a budget compromise to avoid a shutdown. The poll shows that 55 percent of respondents believe lawmakers who share their view on the issues should compromise on the budget even if they don’t agree with it.
The poll also reveals that if efforts to compromise fail and the government shuts down, 39 percent of respondents will blame Republicans. A similar amount of respondents – 36 percent – will also place blame on the Obama administration.
As a result, Obama has been holding talks with Democratic and Republican leaders since last Friday. Over the weekend, Democrats created a budget proposal that would cut $30 billion from the budget. However Boehner, under pressure from Tea Party Republicans, rejected the Democratic compromise saying, “$33 billion is not enough.”
Tea Party Republicans have been steadfast in their insistence for $100 billion in cuts. Members of the Tea Party Patriots protested last week upon news of the presidential budget negotiations.
On Tuesday, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) responded with a budget resolution that would turn Medicaid into a block-grant program and convert Medicare into a program that guarantees a set contribution to a senior's health care costs. The resolution would also cap overall spending and would not raise taxes. The resolution has had the full backing of the House leadership. Democrats remain committed to White House negotiations, standing firm with a slightly revised budget featuring $37 billion in cuts.
The Republican leadership is also standing firm, insisting that Congress should approve serious tax spending cuts. “We’ve got to cut spending if we’re serious about creating an environment for job creators in America to do what they do best – and that’s to create jobs,” said Boehner.
According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, March’s CR will expire just after midnight tonight. If Congress does not approve a FY 2011 budget appropriations bill or a stopgap resolution bill, federal departments and agencies will be required to execute contingency plans for a lapse in appropriations or a shutdown.