By Igor Volsky and Pat Garofalo
Press reports indicate that Republicans may be willing to shut down the federal government if Democrats don’t accept a rider that would prohibit any additional funding to Planned Parenthood, a national organization that provides reproductive health services to women. “We’ve been close on the cuts for days,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), said yesterday, “The only things — I repeat, the only things — holding up an agreement are two of their so-called social issues: women’s health and clean air.” Reid reiterated his frustration this morning, saying, “The number we’re not bending on. We’re not bending on that and we’re not bending on women’s health.”
At a late-night White House meeting between the president and key congressional leaders, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) made clear that his conference 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.
The negotiations are dominated by men: All of the principal negotiators in both parties are male, as are most of the senior staff involved. (House Democrats, led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), have largely been left out of key talks.)
House Republicans have been insisting the roadblock to cutting a new budget deal is not just the culture-war riders attached to the spending plan, but a source familiar with a top-level White House meeting earlier Thursday said most of the discussion in fact was about the riders.
According to The Guttmacher Institute, “every dollar spent on family planning saves taxpayers $3.74 in government spending on prenatal care, childbirth, and the first year of an infant’s health care. But if more women who are financially stressed end up bearing children they don’t want, the costs of pregnancy and infant care will quickly be dwarfed by government spending on public assistance, food stamps, and health care.” Moreover, pushing contraceptive care patients from Planned Parenthood to other clinics — as the Republicans are now proposing — would “cost the government an additional $174 million a year.”
At this point, it’s worth remembering that even the threat of a shutdown can increase federal spending. As an Obama administration staffer told Steve Benen yesterday, just the contingency plans that are being put in place in case of a shutdown are costing the government money. The last government shutdown cost the government about $800 million in additional spending, while a shutdown could actually increase the deficit by increasing the cost of financing the nation’s debt (as it did in 1995).