Last night Ryan Grim reported that the GOP may force a government shutdown largely over funding for Planned Parenthood under Title X:
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.
The Hyde Amendment already prevents government funding for abortions, and abortions are a tiny part of the services Planned Parenthood provides.
The government is on the verge of being shut down because Republicans want to inset a provision into the budget that would prevent millions of women from getting contraception or cancer screening. This could be brinkmanship:Because the Republican base sees a shutdown as an end unto itself, the Republican leadership has a really strong political incentive to stretch this out as long as possible and cut a deal at the last minute. If this is the case, then culture war rhetoric serves as political cover for Republican leaders who want to cut a deal that might be hard to sell to the base.
In the past few weeks, we’ve been treated to a bevy of coverage insisting that Republicans have abandoned the culture war and are focusing on fiscal issues. Republicans like these stories because they make them look less extreme. But as Greg noted earlier today: “In its current form, at least, the budget debate is not meaningfully about fiscal matters. It’s over abortion, women’s health, and whether our environmental policies should be premised on climate science.”
What’s more, it’s not like pursuing the culture war and trying to defund the federal social safety net for women are mutually exclusive goals. In this case, they’re complimenting each other — when you’re trying to appease the Republican base, there isn’t a much better sweet spot intersection between the culture war and fiscal conservatism than women’s reproductive health.
By: Adam Serwer, The Washington Post, April 8, 2011
Many commentators swooned earlier this week after House Republicans, led by the Budget Committee chairman, Paul Ryan, unveiled their budget proposals. They lavished praise on Mr. Ryan, asserting that his plan set a new standard of fiscal seriousness.
Well, they should have waited until people who know how to read budget numbers had a chance to study the proposal. For the G.O.P. plan turns out not to be serious at all. Instead, it’s simultaneously ridiculous and heartless.
How ridiculous is it? Let me count the ways — or rather a few of the ways, because there are more howlers in the plan than I can cover in one column.
First, Republicans have once again gone all in for voodoo economics — the claim, refuted by experience, that tax cuts pay for themselves.
Specifically, the Ryan proposal trumpets the results of an economic projection from the Heritage Foundation, which claims that the plan’s tax cuts would set off a gigantic boom. Indeed, the foundation initially predicted that the G.O.P. plan would bring the unemployment rate down to 2.8 percent — a number we haven’t achieved since the Korean War. After widespread jeering, the unemployment projection vanished from the Heritage Foundation’s Web site, but voodoo still permeates the rest of the analysis.
In particular, the original voodoo proposition — the claim that lower taxes mean higher revenue — is still very much there. The Heritage Foundation projection has large tax cuts actually increasing revenue by almost $600 billion over the next 10 years.
A more sober assessment from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office tells a different story. It finds that a large part of the supposed savings from spending cuts would go, not to reduce the deficit, but to pay for tax cuts. In fact, the budget office finds that over the next decade the plan would lead to bigger deficits and more debt than current law.
And about those spending cuts: leave health care on one side for a moment and focus on the rest of the proposal. It turns out that Mr. Ryan and his colleagues are assuming drastic cuts in nonhealth spending without explaining how that is supposed to happen.
How drastic? According to the budget office, which analyzed the plan using assumptions dictated by House Republicans, the proposal calls for spending on items other than Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — but including defense — to fall from 12 percent of G.D.P. last year to 6 percent of G.D.P. in 2022, and just 3.5 percent of G.D.P. in the long run.
That last number is less than we currently spend on defense alone; it’s not much bigger than federal spending when Calvin Coolidge was president, and the United States, among other things, had only a tiny military establishment. How could such a drastic shrinking of government take place without crippling essential public functions? The plan doesn’t say.
And then there’s the much-ballyhooed proposal to abolish Medicare and replace it with vouchers that can be used to buy private health insurance.
The point here is that privatizing Medicare does nothing, in itself, to limit health-care costs. In fact, it almost surely raises them by adding a layer of middlemen. Yet the House plan assumes that we can cut health-care spending as a percentage of G.D.P. despite an aging population and rising health care costs.
The only way that can happen is if those vouchers are worth much less than the cost of health insurance. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that by 2030 the value of a voucher would cover only a third of the cost of a private insurance policy equivalent to Medicare as we know it. So the plan would deprive many and probably most seniors of adequate health care.
And that neither should nor will happen. Mr. Ryan and his colleagues can write down whatever numbers they like, but seniors vote. And when they find that their health-care vouchers are grossly inadequate, they’ll demand and get bigger vouchers — wiping out the plan’s supposed savings.
In short, this plan isn’t remotely serious; on the contrary, it’s ludicrous.
And it’s also cruel.
In the past, Mr. Ryan has talked a good game about taking care of those in need. But as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, of the $4 trillion in spending cuts he proposes over the next decade, two-thirds involve cutting programs that mainly serve low-income Americans. And by repealing last year’s health reform, without any replacement, the plan would also deprive an estimated 34 million nonelderly Americans of health insurance.
So the pundits who praised this proposal when it was released were punked. The G.O.P. budget plan isn’t a good-faith effort to put America’s fiscal house in order; it’s voodoo economics, with an extra dose of fantasy, and a large helping of mean-spiritedness.
By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, April 7, 2011
If the federal government shuts down at midnight on Friday — which seems likely unless negotiations take a sudden turn toward rationality — it will not be because of disagreements over spending. It will be because Republicans are refusing to budge on these ideological demands:
• No federal financing for Planned Parenthood because it performs abortions. Instead, state administration of federal family planning funds, which means that Republican governors and legislatures will not spend them.
• No local financing for abortion services in the District of Columbia.
• No foreign aid to countries that might use the money for abortion or family planning. And no aid to the United Nations Population Fund, which supports family-planning services.
• No regulation of greenhouse gases by the Environmental Protection Agency.
• No funds for health care reform or the new consumer protection bureau established in the wake of the financial collapse.
Abortion. Environmental protection. Health care. Nothing to do with jobs or the economy; instead, all the hoary greatest hits of the Republican Party, only this time it has the power to wreak national havoc: furloughing 800,000 federal workers, suspending paychecks for soldiers and punishing millions of Americans who will have to wait for tax refunds, Social Security applications, small-business loans, and even most city services in Washington. The damage to a brittle economy will be substantial.
Democrats have already gone much too far in giving in to the House demands for spending cuts. The $33 billion that they have agreed to cut will pull an enormous amount of money from the economy at exactly the wrong time, and will damage dozens of vital programs.
But it turns out that all those excessive cuts they volunteered were worth far less to the Republicans than the policy riders that are the real holdup to a deal. After President Obama appeared on television late Wednesday night to urge the two sides to keep talking, negotiators say, the issue of the spending cuts barely even came up. All the talk was about the abortion demands and the other issues.
Democrats in the White House and the Senate say they will not give in to this policy extortion, and we hope they do not weaken. These issues have no place in a stopgap spending bill a few minutes from midnight.
A measure to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions came up for a Senate vote on Wednesday and failed. If Republicans want to have yet another legislative debate about abortion and family planning, let them try to pass a separate bill containing their restrictions. But that bill would fail, too, and they know it, so they have chosen extortion.
The lack of seriousness in the House is reflected in the taunting bill it passed on Thursday to keep the government open for another week at an absurdly high cost of $12 billion in cuts and the ban on District of Columbia abortion financing. The Senate and the White House said it was a nonstarter. Many of the same House members who earlier had said they would refuse to approve another short-term spending bill voted for this one, clearly hoping they could use its inevitable failure in the Senate to blame the Democrats for the shutdown. What could be more cynical?
The public is not going to be fooled once it sees what the Republicans, pushed by Tea Party members, were really holding out for. There are a few hours left to stop this dangerous game, and for the Republicans to start doing their job, which, if they’ve forgotten, is to serve the American people.
By: Editorial, The New York Times, April 8, 2011
We’re hours away from a shutdown, yet there’s still no deal. The negotiations have become slightly reminiscent of Max Baucus’s Gang of Six: a group of people in a room who desperately want to agree on something but can’t figure out how to get the people outside the room to sign off on it. You can tell that Reid and Boehner want to come to an agreement. But having taken Democrats past the Republican leadership’s opening offer of $32 billion in cuts, Boehner can’t take them much further. But so far as the Tea Party is concerned, Boehner still has not taken them far enough.
Boehner and Reid say they’ve “narrowed the issues.” That means they’re very close on total spending cuts (somewhere around $35 billion) and very clear on what’s left to negotiate. The problem, however, is that as small as a policy rider over federal funding for Planned Parenthood might be, the distance between the two parties on the underlying issue is great. Democrats were appalled yesterday when Republicans made a one-week stopgap contingent on a rider barring Washington, DC from using its own money to fund abortion for low-income women (so much for home rule). The stop gap went nowhere, even though the issue of how DC can use its own funds is, in the national context, small.
And the problem isn’t just the policy. What the two parties are trying to prove about themselves, and about their relationship going forward, is very big. John Boehner is trying to convince Republicans in the House and Republicans in the country that they can trust him, that he’s conservative enough and steely enough to represent their interests in negotiations with the Democrats. And Democrats are trying to show that they will not be rolled over in negotiations simply because the Tea Party is unwilling to compromise, that they still control the Senate and the White House and they plan to act like it. These negotiations are really about the next negotiations, and the negotiations after that. Both parties worry that if they compromise now, they only embolden the other side later. And later is when the stakes get really high.
For that reason, more than a few observers and participants have suggested to me that perhaps a shutdown tonight would be healthy. Better, they say, that Democrats and Republicans test what happens if they refuse to compromise now, when the consequences can be contained, than later, when the fight will be over the debt ceiling and the consequences could be catastrophic. That they may be right is a depressing commentary on the forces buffeting our political system right now, and the very real, very large risks they pose to the country.
By Ezra Klein, The Washington Post, April 8, 2011