If Congress fails to reach a budget deal, the government will shut down at midnight tonight — an event that would hinder economic recovery and withhold payment to soldiers. But congressional leaders are at loggerheads over one issue: family planning. Though it has zero impact on the federal budget, House Republicans are insisting that Democrats agree to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood or make billions more in cuts.
While many Republicans are committed to holding up the budget over a social issue, at least three anti-choice Republicans are recognizing the absurdity of such an obstacle. Sens. Pat Toomey (R-PA), Tom Coburn (R-OK) and — surprisingly — Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) have signaled a willingness drop the policy rider to reach an agreement and avoid a shutdown:
— Toomey on MSNBC: “I think what we should do is cut spending as much as we can, get the policy changes that we can, but move on, because there are other, bigger battles that we are fighting,” he said yesterday.
— Coburn on MSNBC: “And my recommendation to my friends in the House is, you know, it’s highly unlikely that many riders are going to get passed with a Democrat president and a Democrat Senate, so why don’t you take the spending and let’s get on to the budget,” he said Wednesday.
— Bachmann on CNN: “I think that we should have a clean bill that makes sure that the paychecks get to the troops on time,” she told CNN’s John King yesterday.
The “clean bill” Bachmann called for is exactly what the Democrats offered yesterday.
Perhaps this more sober approach comes from a recognition that, in attempting to strike at abortion providers, the GOP bill would actually gut critical women’s health services instead. Planned Parenthood has long been banned from using federal funds to perform abortions. This measure would, instead, ban funding that goes to contraception, family planning, and cancer screening services.
But still, Republicans like Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) are intent on passing the misguided rider regardless if it results in a shutdown — a position that, as the Washington Monthly Steve Benen notes, reveals the GOP as a party that “isn’t just shutting down the government, it’s shutting down the government for a ridiculous reason that the American mainstream will find absurd.”
Bachmann’s quote is now correct. A previous error included Toomey’s statement in Bachmann’s.
,Likely GOP presidential candidate Gov. Mike Huckabee — who is virulently anti-abortion — also urged House Republicans to avoid government shut down over Planned Parenthood because “it will hurt Republicans.” “The Republicans can’t win this battle when it gets down to it,” he said. “Nobody is more pro-life than me, nobody. But as much as I want to see Planned Parenthood defunded, as much as i want to see NPR lose their funding, the reality is the president and the Senate are never going to go along with that. So, win the deal you can win.”