In The End, It Really Was All About That Planned Parenthood Rider
As yesterday's budget negotiations began, the GOP had a choice - appease the base, or make a deal. They made the right choice.
I’ll be doing a more in-depth post on the budget deal later today, but Politico’s story on the deal this morning deserves some attention primarily because it seems to confirm that the final element holding up a deal, outside of the relatively pedestrian task of agreeing on a number for cuts when the parties were only a few billion dollars a part, was in fact the House GOP’s rider to defund Planned Parenthood:
The low point may have come Thursday night.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) had spent more than an hour meeting with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, inching towards a deal to avert a shutdown, but he kept insisting that it include a prohibition against federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
That was a non-starter for Obama. As the meeting was breaking up, Vice President Joe Biden told the speaker, in no uncertain terms, that his demand was unacceptable. If that became the deal-breaker, Biden said, he would “take it to the American people,” who would presumably punish the GOP for shutting down the government over an ideological issue.
“They were faced with a choice – they would either have to give in or shut down the government,” said a senior administration official, describing how the negotiations went from there.
In the end, Boehner agreed to a package of $38.5 billion in cuts, a significant victory for a man who said his goal was to extract as much as possible from the federal budget. He also won limited victories on a handful of policy riders attached to the bill. But Boehner was forced to abandon some major demands, including Planned Parenthood, restrictions on the Environmental Protection Agency and efforts to restrict Obama’s health reform bill.
Administration officials cast the deal as proof Obama and Boehner can forge a longer-lasting relationship to negotiate the perils of divided government, but it was a rough week punctuated by several near deals, a few blow-ups and a resolution that came 90 minutes before the government shuttered.
“It’s been a long dance,” said an Obama aide involved in the talks.
Boehner did get some concessions. There are an additional billion dollars in spending cuts in this package, and the Senate has agreed to hold stand-alone votes on both the defunding of Planned Parenthood and the defunding of the Affordable Care Act. Of course, neither one of these provisions will pass the Senate, and the Planned Parenthood matter is unlikely to even survive a cloture vote since there are already 41 Senators on record as saying they’d vote no on Cloture Motion on any such provision. Additionally, there were other issues to resolve, like the EPA rider and the final number, but the only thing that the White House said was a deal-breaker was the Planned Parenthood rider. So, Boehner had a choice, either he sticks with his base and lets the shutdown happen, or he takes the best deal he could get and fight another day.
Boehner did the right thing here. No matter how hard the GOP tried to spin it yesterday, it was pretty clear that if a shutdown had occurred the public would have been left with an impression that the GOP had allowed the government to shut down over a controversial social issue, and I think Biden’s assessment about what would’ve happened are probably correct. Even some of the most socially conservative Members Of Congress recognized that the rider was not the hill to die on. Boehner did the right thing here, and if the Tea Party and/or the social conservatives are angry about it, then that’s just a reflection of their own political naivete.