Senate Democrats Place Shutdown Blame on Boehner

Posted April 8, 2011 at 3:19pm

Senate Democratic leaders say a final deal to avert a government shutdown rests in the hands of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and will only happen if he drops an attempt to defund Planned Parenthood.

At a press conference with more than 30 Democratic Senators — one of a nearly nonstop series of press events on Capitol Hill on Friday — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said that he has already spoken to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) about the possibility of moving a short-term spending bill if a deal is not reached. But Reid noted that any such effort would require unanimous consent given the limited time before a shutdown starts at midnight.

The Planned Parenthood rider remains the sticking point, Reid said.

“They can keep their word on our agreement to significantly cut the budget and the deficit, or they can shut down America’s government over women’s access to cancer tests,” Reid said. “If that sounds ridiculous, it’s because it is ridiculous.”

Reid reiterated that the agreement at the White House last night was for $78 billion, which he said was reached through additional defense and mandatory spending cuts.

Reid said the Democratic proposal for a short-term continuing resolution would keep the government open for one week and fund pay for the troops for the rest of the year.

Majority Whip Dick Durbin said in an interview that Boehner’s side derailed the deal at the last minute.

“Midnight last night, it was down to one issue: Title X,” the Illinois Democrat said. “They made a proposal to us, and we said that was unacceptable. … Instead of saying, ‘All right, can we find another approach to that,’ they said, ‘Well, then let’s reopen up the negotiation on the numbers.’”

Durbin said Boehner’s side had made a “procedural suggestion” about how the Senate would vote on the Planned Parenthood money involving “promises by the president to sign things regardless of the outcome” and that Democrats found the offer “totally unacceptable.”

Durbin described Boehner’s subsequent move to reopen the rest of the debate as “maddening.”

“At some point, this has to come to a close,” he said. “This reaches a point where you say: ‘This will never end. He will have a new problem and need a new number.’ We have got to bring this to a close. After all this time, we’ve come up with a number. Let’s get it done.”

Boehner has said spending, not riders, remains the largest obstacle and has urged the Senate and the president to pass the House’s short-term spending bill to prevent a shutdown. That bill cuts $12 billion in domestic spending, includes the full-year defense spending bill with an extra $6 billion increase and a rider prohibiting local or federal taxpayer funding of abortions in the District of Columbia.

Obama has threatened to veto that bill and has said he would support only a short-term, clean CR.