The rumor from Washington is that progress is being made on the budget standoff. But will it be fast enough to avert a government shutdown before the Friday deadline? Not everyone is optimistic.
The biggest obstacles to the deal at this point? Namely, disputes over two hot-button issues: defunding family planning services at Planned Parenthood and preventing the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.
When it comes right down to it, what should be a discussion about numbers and how the government should slash spending has turned into an ideological debate about an issue that has been splitting the country in two for decades. Is this really the best time to argue about abortion?
Here's Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid expressing his frustration with Republicans for "drawing the line in the sand" over abortion and, in effect, stalling the negotiations:
We can’t solve in one night a disagreement this country has been having for decades. It’s not realistic. It’s not realistic to shutdown the government on a debate dealing with abortion ... It’s not fair to the American people.
The irony, of course, is that the Republican amendment to defund Planned Parenthood wouldn't directly decrease abortions. That's because Planned Parenthood doesn't allocate any federal money to abortion services; it's used for cervical cancer screening, breast cancer screening, general reproductive health, free condom distribution, etc. Moreover, the amendment would save only $330 million -- which is paltry considering the total amount the Republicans want to slash.
Yet, the GOP is digging its heels in over a policy issue at this critical time. And the Democrats are pissed. Here's Reid again:
The numbers are basically there ... the only thing holding up an agreement is ideology.
I don't know about you, but I don't think ideology and side policy provisions have any place in the conversation about the deficit. Moreover, a dislike for Planned Parenthood (and the EPA) isn't a good reason to shut down the government -- in fact, it's a really bad reason. Let's have the abortion debate at another time when there isn't a huge budget deadline looming. Or is that too much to ask from our lawmakers?
Image via S.MiRK/Flickr