April 08, 2011 10:48 am ET - by Matt Finkelstein
With a government shutdown looming, the House GOP's refusal to let go of contentious policy riders, such as ending federal funding for Planned Parenthood, is evidently the main obstacle to striking a deal. Earlier this week, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) brazenly announced that "of course" he was willing to force a shutdown over Planned Parenthood funding. Later, Boehner confirmed that the social issues on the table are "just as important" to Republicans as spending cuts.
Last night on Fox News, however, Pence was singing a slightly different tune. Although he did not back off his commitment to defunding Planned Parenthood, Pence suggested that Democrats are actually the ones who are prepared to grind the government to a halt over social issues. "It looks like Democrats are prepared to shut down the government, so they can continue to borrow money from China to underwrite abortion providers in this country," he said.
PENCE: Well, it gets back down to what you were speculating about at the top of this segment. It looks like Democrats are willing to shut down the government to prevent passage of a two percent cut in the federal budget. I mean, it looks like Democrats are prepared to shut down the government, so they can continue to borrow money from China to underwrite abortion providers in this country. I don't know what the motivations are. But, I think the American people are recognizing more and more as time goes on, nobody in the Republican majority in Congress wants to shut down the government. But we're not going to lose this moment where we can make a down payment on restoring fiscal sanity to Washington, D.C.
With less than 24 hours to go until a shutdown, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) suggested that a rider to defund Planned Parenthood, a key sticking point in reaching an agreement, was expendable.
"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."
Likewise, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has stated that House Republicans should acknowledge "the realities of the situation" and agree to the spending cuts that Democrats are prepared to accept. Coburn, of course, has earned the nickname "Dr. No" for his obstructionist tactics in the Senate, including a series of stunts aimed at derailing health care reform.
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