Twelve hours until the government shuts down, people! Actually eleven hours and some minutes! Progress was made last evening, however. The only inflexible issue that hasn't been negotiated out, according to everyone, is the few hundred million dollars in federal subsidies for Planned Parenthood.
As far as total spending cuts, the leadership of the two parties have coalesced around $38 billion, rather than $33 billion. Fine. But now we really might have a government shutdown over very modest subsidies to a women's health organization that performs some abortions with its own segregated funds.
It is always about abortion. Health care reform would have been completed weeks earlier if it weren't for the abortion compromise that took so long to produce. The chief negotiator of that deal, ex-Rep. Bart Stupak, decided to retire afterwards with legislative PTSD. He still fears for his life. It is always about abortion. Abortion is the Republicans' top mobilizer. Abortion protesters will be the ones left standing on the South Lawn of the Capitol screaming at the House balcony during a nuclear raid. It is nearly impossible for House Republican negotiators to ultimately exclude a "defund Planned Parenthood" rider that's already been passed once without facing violent revolution within their own party.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has laid a final offer at Republicans' feet, and it will require them to drop their insistence on defunding Planned Parenthood, and accepting what Reid insists is an agreed upon level of spending cuts. If Republicans don't take it, and if Reid's not bluffing, the government will shutdown.
"The number we're not bending on," he told reporters in a press briefing Friday morning. "We're not bending on that and we're not bending on women's health."
The ball is effectively now in House Speaker John Boehner's court. Republicans have signaled a willingness to drop the Planned Parenthood rider in exchange for more spending cuts. But Reid says they've agreed on cut number — $78 billion below President Obama's budget request last year, or about $38 billion off current spending. Reports on this figure have varied even in the last several hours.
Boehner claims the impasse is still about spending, but a few billion more can always be thrown his way. It is always about abortion.
Watch Boehner's sad press conference from late this morning in the clip up top. I say this not to make fun in any way, well maybe a touch, but he's barely able to get through this one-minute statement without crying again. His eyes are soaking wet; his voice dips and wavers. His facial features jiggle. He wants to cry in the worst way. He knows he's going to have to agree to remove a measure defunding Planned Parenthood that's attached to a federal appropriations bill. So cry it out and get it over with, friend.