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Republicans Balk at Government Shutdown Over Planned Parenthood

With just hours to go until a shutdown, it’s worth noting that there is a slight disconnect within the Republican caucus. As the truth leaks out that Planned Parenthood – Planned Parenthood! – is at the heart of the negotiations, some Republicans are experiencing discomfort. Witness Pat Toomey, nobody’s moderate, the former chair of the Club for Growth:

“I’d like to defund Planned Parenthood, but I understand that Republicans don’t have complete control of the elected government, “Toomey said 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.”

“[We] just need to recognize,” Toomey said on MSNBC. “We should aggressively go for everything we can get and move on.”

If you think that was just an anomaly, how does Michele Bachmann sound?

“Well, my opinion is this: I think that we should have a clean bill that makes sure that the paycheck gets to the troops on time,” Bachmann said when asked whether the policy riders should be “set aside” for the “next battle” over the 2012 budget.

??”After all, now that President Obama has us engaged in a third war in Libya, I think it’s imperative that our troops not pay a price and none of the families back home should worry whether or not they’re getting a check,” Bachmann added.?

Now this is a shift over the last day. And it’s because there’s now actual headline reporting over why Republican negotiators won’t come to an agreement. There’s reason to believe that Democrats should have taken this public negotiating tactic from the beginning. But regardless, it’s working now.

We should never lose sight of the fact, however, that it’s not possible for Democrats to “win” this debate now, from a policy standpoint. They may win the political aftermath, and what they’ve hit on, by cornering Republicans over their insistence on defunding women’s health, suggests that might happen. But on the overall policy, they’ve lost. They upped their offer to $34.5 billion in cuts from the 2010 budget baseline (Republicans are at $39 billion now). The population grew from 2010 to 2011. Inflation rose 1% or so. And the economy remains fragile, albeit a little less fragile than before. If the 14 million or so Americans out of work are going to find work they need help in the form of public investment. A deal on the budget will feature the exact opposite approach. The Republican budget and its $61 billion in cuts would cost between 700,000 and 1 million jobs, according to analyst estimates. $34.5-$39 billion in cuts will not magically reduce that number to zero. Avoiding a shutdown would be nice, but there’s no avoiding a crippling series of budget cuts that will cost jobs and cancel out the tax-driven stimulus from the December deal. In fact, as I’ve argued, the cuts were driven by that deal.

UPDATE: And more fodder for this thesis. Harry Reid just said in a pen and pad to reporters that Democrats upped their cuts number to $38 billion. But Planned Parenthood remains the sticking point. So the new best-case scenario is $6 billion above the initial cut number put forward by House Republicans in January.

…video of Reid: it’s all down to women’s health.

UPDATE II: Reid’s speech on the floor is worth copying in full.

“My wife and I have been married for more than 50 years. We have one daughter and nine granddaughters. I love these women.

“One day, one of them may need a cancer screening. It’s not a pleasant thought, but that’s the reality of life. Over their lives they’ll also need other tests like cholesterol and blood pressure screenings – tests that are less serious, but just as important.

“They should be able to get the tests that could save their lives. So should every single woman in America. I believe that – and frankly, that’s not so controversial of a belief.

“Some women, of course, have doctors. Others, including many of the poorest among us, do not. So where do they go to get blood pressure or cholesterol or cancer screenings?

“Thankfully, there is a little-known part of a little-known law that saves many lives. It’s called Title X, and it’s part of a public health law. And it means that women and girls can go to their local health department or a community clinic and get these tests. More than five million women use centers funded by Title X every year. Five million.

“Some watching us today – and we know the whole world is watching – may be asking why I’m talking about women’s health. When the question before us is the budget of the biggest economy on the planet, some may ask why we’re talking about this smallest corner of it.

“With a government shutdown looming not weeks away, or days away, but just hours away – why are we talking about whether women can keep getting something as simple and as non-controversial as cancer screenings?

“The answer is that Republicans want to shut down our nation’s government because they want to make it harder for women to get the health services they need.

“And by the way, that does not include abortion. It is illegal to use federal funds for abortion services. So anyone who says this debate is over abortion isn’t being truthful. It is about simple and important health services.

“Republicans want to shut down the government because they think there is nothing more important than keeping women from getting cancer screenings? That is indefensible, and everyone should be outraged – women and men. Republican leaders in the House have only a few hours left to look in the mirror, snap out of it and realize how positively shameful that would be.

“For months, this conversation has been about billions and trillions of dollars. It has been about weighty issues and difficult decisions. This debate used to be about saving money.

“No longer. We have an agreement on the cuts and savings. And that agreement includes a historic level of cuts.

“But now the Tea Party is trying to sneak through its extreme social agenda – issues that have nothing to do with funding the government. They are willing to throw women under the bus, even if it means they’ll shut down the government.

“Their agenda is an extreme agenda. I don’t agree with their ideas on social policy. But in our democracy, those ideas, however radical, deserve a debate if they want one.

“But that debate does not belong in an urgent budget bill to keep the country running. And it especially doesn’t belong here at this late hour.

“The consequences of letting our country’s funding expire would be devastating. It would be devastating to our troops, to our small businesses and to Americans’ everyday lives – people who just want to get a home loan or get their tax refund or get their paycheck. It would damage our image and credibility around the world.

“But Republicans are asking me to sacrifice my wife’s health, my daughter’s health and my nine granddaughters’ health. They’re asking me to sacrifice the health of women in Nevada and across America. I won’t do it.

“As a legislator, I’m frustrated. And as an American, I’m appalled. As a husband, a father and a grandfather, I’m personally offended.”

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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