Planned Parenthood funding remains obstacle to agreement

McClatchy NewspapersApril 8, 2011 

WASHINGTON — Budget negotiators have agreed to cut $38 billion over the last six months of this fiscal year — but there's still no deal because the two sides remained deadlocked over whether to provide federal funding to Planned Parenthood, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Friday.

The government will run out of money at midnight, and if no agreement is reached, much of the government will begin shutting down.

Reid and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio have meet three times with Obama at the White House in recent days, and after Thursday night’s session, Obama said he wanted a plan Friday morning.

That plan is still not final. But it's close, Reid said.

"A number has been agreed upon," he told reporters. "The only issue left was women's health."

Boehner would not get that specific. He appeared outside his office and made a brief statement.

"When will the White House and Senate Democrats get serious about cutting spending?" he asked. "A bill that fails to include real spending cuts will hurt job growth and signal that Washington is not serious about dealing with its spending addiction."

Republicans had been holding out for a number of social policy changes, but Reid said any disagreements had been ironed out. He did not provide specifics.

The GOP was trying to include bans on funding for a White House "climate change czar," and for Environmental Protection Agency efforts to regulate greenhouse gases.

But so far, Republicans have not yielded on their bid to bar federal money from going to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, a favorite target of anti-abortion lawmakers because it provides abortion-related services.

Planned Parenthood is already barred from using federal dollars for most abortion services. The federal dollars it receives go toward services such as reproductive counseling and sex education. The group is expected to get about $330 million in federal funds this year.

Democrats originally wanted $73 billion in spending cuts; Republicans sought about $100 billion. Insiders said that in return for dropping the social policy changes, the GOP wanted more spending cuts.

It got them, but Reid and other Democrats protested that Republicans were being too obstinate.

"For weeks we've been told that (this budget) is about cutting spending," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. "Now at the 11th hour, we find out what it's really about."

If no deal is reached by midnight Friday, the government will be out of money. Essential federal services would continue, such as law enforcement, Social Security checks and mail delivery. Military troops would remain on duty, but would get paid retroactively.

But national parks and museums would close, and an estimated 800,000 federal civilian employees classified as "non-essential" would be furloughed. Most federal agencies would see their operations closed or curtailed.

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