Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
Congress is no closer to compromising on a deal to keep the federal government running – meaning a shut down could take place at midnight Eastern time tonight. In fact Democrats and Republicans are even disagreeing right now on what’s holding up a deal.
The leader of Senate Democrats, Harry Reid, said today that negotiators came close to a deal overnight but that House Republicans’ are insisting on keeping a rider that would defund Planned Parenthood.
But House Speaker, Republican John Boehner says the sticking point is money, and how much Democrats are willing to cut.
The fight over Planned Parenthood centers around stances on abortion – except the health centers are already not allowed to use federal funds for abortions. Instead they get money for other womens’ health services, from cervical and breast cancer screening to birth control and cholesterol checks.
Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski was critical yesterday of holding up the whole budget on one rider.
“Well I’m trying to be reasonable about it, and when folks come into the room and before anybody’s even laid out a position they say I’m not even going to consider it if we’re going to be talking about abortion or public broadcasting, or drawing these lines in the sand, and saying no, we’re not going to talk about it,” Murkowski said.
Her Republican Alaska colleague over in the House, Don Young, is placing blame on the shoulders of Senate Democrats. He’s calling for avoiding a government shutdown, but a letter signed by the Congressman only calls for the Democrats to be more flexible, not his own party.
One of those Democratic Senators, Mark Begich, says his colleagues have gone far in negotiations. He says they’ve already agreed to far more in cuts than they’d like.
“Think about the first 10 billion we did. Just in public radio there was a reduction, 50 million if I’m remembering right. I’m a big supporter but we had to figure out where to give. Some areas of health and human services have been reduced. Indian Health Services have been reduced. But all these, in the sense of trying to be fair, we’re saying ok we’re going to give a little,” Begich said.
Begich says both sides have to move beyond debating discretionary spending, which only counts for about 13 percent of the budget. Instead he says they need to step back and be willing to make major overhauls – which need more time to be worked out. For now he and the rest of the Alaska delegation say they’re still hoping a shutdown can be avoided.