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Abortion Back in the Middle — Debate to Avoid Government Shutdown

Reproductive Rights Activists Hold Stand Up For Women's Health Rally In DC
Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

Republicans and Democrats remained locked in a budget impasse Friday morning, with both sides identifying different sticking points that are preventing a deal to fund the federal government.

With just over 12 hours until the deadline to pass a funding measure or shut the government down, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pointed to a quarrel over funding women’s health centers as the reason for the continuing standoff, while House Speaker John Boehner said flatly that only differences over spending levels remain between the two warring sides.

Democrats have painted the conflict as one solely over the abortion issue, arguing that Republicans refuse to drop their push to scrap funding for Planned Parenthood even at risk of a shutdown.

Boehner disputed that Friday morning.

“There is only one reason that we do not have an agreement as yet and that issue is spending,” Boehner told the press in brief remarks. 

Reid told reporters earlier Friday that the dispute over depth of the spending reductions has been resolved and that he and Boehner have agreed on $38 billion in cuts.

The impasse solely hinges on government funding for health centers that include Planned Parenthood, an abortion provider, Reid said.

“It’s an ideological battle that has nothing to do with [the] fiscal integrity of this country, everything to do with the ideology on that other side of the Capitol,” Reid said.

Aides from both parties said top negotiators, including the chiefs of staff to Boehner and Reid, worked at the Capitol until 3am ET last night without a deal. The president has asked for notification on the status of the cuts by noon.

Both House Republicans and Senate Democrats will huddle in private talks early this afternoon, and GOP leaders are expected to speak after their meeting.

The Senate took steps last night to take up and possibly amend the one-week short term continuing resolution that was passed in the House yesterday.

Boehner urged the Senate on Friday to pass that one-week measure, which would fund the Pentagon (and thus paychecks to members of the armed services) for the rest of the year. But that bill also includes deep spending cuts and a policy rider addressing abortions in the District of Columbia. The White House has said it will veto it.

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