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Looking to counter a press conference earlier Friday by Democratic women in the Senate lambasting the GOP over their refusal to drop provisions blocking women's health funding, Republican women in the House held a gathering of their own on Friday afternoon. But the presser proved a frustrating affair for the members, who were asked over and over again without success to explain if they agreed with the policy riders or not.

In their opening remarks, the 15 congresswomen present each sought to frame the battle over a continuing resolution as one about spending, with several saying future prosperity spurred by lower debt would benefit their daughters and granddaughters -- seemingly a direct rejoinder to Democratic accusations that the GOP was targeting women and children. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) said that the Democrats' spending was "economic child abuse."

But despite charging Democrats with falsely claiming negotiations were hinging on social issues, the members appeared uncomfortable even bringing up the policy riders in question by name. Not one member recited the words "Planned Parenthood" in opening remarks and only one member, Rep. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, even mentioned the word "abortion." Several addressed Democratic charges that policy provisions regarding women's health and abortion were holding up a final deal only in the most indirect terms.

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As you may have heard, Donald Trump has recently gone full "birther" -- openly questioning whether President Obama was born in the U.S. and demanding to see a satisfactory birth certificate -- as part of his public flirtation with a possible presidential bid. And if you've been watching cable news, you might have noticed that the networks have been giving plenty of airtime to Trump and his debunked conspiracy theories, which had been all but relegated to the darkest corners of the net.

CNN got in on the action Friday afternoon with a little segment that lets "you decide" whether Trump's rants are valid or not, treating a point of fact as though it were theory.

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It's that eery time during intense negotiations of any kind when hours of silence go by and each side waits for the other to blink.

Democrats were the last to draw a line in the sand over the abortion riders Republicans are demanding be included in the bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and nearly a dozen other Democrats gathered en mass in the Capitol early Friday afternoon to denounce Republicans' insistence on using budget negotiations to play politics with women's health.

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Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is considering a run for president, is joining in the spin that President Obama's threat to veto the House Republicans' spending bill would hurt the troops by withholding their pay -- and turning it up to 11.

Gingrich, who knows a thing or two about government shutdowns, made his remarks Friday, at a conference in Virginia at Liberty University, which was founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell.



CNN reports:

"Let's be clear," Gingrich said during a speech at Liberty University Friday. "President Obama is deliberately seeking to hold the men and women in uniform hostage so the politicians can fight over the budget and use the threat of not paying the troops their weapon."

...

"You would think that the President of the United States as commander-in-chief, who has just committed to us to our third war on his term, would have some concern for the men and women and their families who are serving America," Gingrich added. "But that's not the case."

Maybe it isn't a take it or leave it situation for John Boehner. After a Democratic caucus meeting this afternoon, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, told reporters negotiators are discussing a new possible deal.

"While we were in there another offer is being analyzed," Conrad said. "And I don't know any of the details, I don't know if anybody does because it was just been received while we were in there."



At a press conference following the meeting, I asked Reid for the details of that offer. He kept it pretty close to the vest.

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Nine Democratic senators, all women, slammed House Republicans at a press conference Friday for threatening to shut down the government over provisions that would prevent funding for Planned Parenthood.

"The numbers have been agreed to, but it's an opportunity for the right wing in the House to really sock it to women,"Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said. "I don't usually use this language, but I really believe this is true."



The event was the latest by Democrats to draw attention to the anti-abortion policy riders, which they claim are the final sticking point in negotiations. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has denied they are the only issue, but has not said they would be left off the table in a final deal. Lawmakers at the press conference noted that federal funding for abortion was already banned by the Hyde Amendment and that Planned Parenthood's services were widely used for other health care purposes, including testing for cancer and providing contraceptive.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) told reporters that Republicans are "playing to their extremist supporters who care more about hurting women's health than reducing the deficit."

Democratic leaders, including Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), are aggressively playing up Republican intransigence on the policy riders. A small handful of Republican and conservative leaders have publicly suggested they're uncomfortable holding up negotiations over the issue.

After an hour-long meeting with members of his caucus, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) emerged, only to repeat himself.

"All I can tell you is that almost all of the policy issues have been dealt with," he said. "And there is no agreement on the spending bill. Were working to try to get there."

It's notable because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) publicly outlined a final offer to Boehner, suggesting he wasn't able to sell the deal to his GOP caucus. The point of contention seems to be that Republicans want to defund Planned Parenthood or extract out further spending cuts. Dems have drawn a line. And there are less than 11 hours between now and a government shutdown.

Rep. Allen West (R-FL), a veteran who left the military after admitting to abusing an Iraqi policeman, is now slamming the GOP for exploiting the troops in the government shutdown fight.

The House passed a bill on Thursday funding the military for the next six months and keeping the government open another week, but Democratic leaders rejected the measure over its inclusion of $12 billion of additional cuts. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has accused Democrats of hurting troops, but West said in a statement to CBS on Thursday that he was "disgusted at the perception that Leaders in my own Party...are now using the men and women in uniform" even as he voted for the measure himself.



"The House Majority has now placed the funding for the Department of Defense and the funding for the troops down as a bargaining chip," West said. "In the last 100 days, the House Majority could have passed at any point in time a separate stand alone Appropriations for the Department of Defense and the funding for our men and women in uniform."

Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has insisted over and over again that his party is not going to shut the government down over social issues. But Democrats maintain that funding for Planned Parenthood and other provisions targeting abortion are the prime sticking point -- and their message appears to be taking hold, even among some key GOP lawmakers.

A growing number of pro-life Republicans and conservative activists are publicly pressuring Boehner to drop the issue. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), known as one of the toughest social conservatives in Congress, told MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan on April 6 that they were unrealistic demands.



"My recommendation to my friends in the House is, you know, it's highly unlikely many riders are going to get passed with a Democrat president and Democrat Senate, so why don't you take the spending and let's get on to the budget," he said.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) another pro-life conservative echoed his call on MSNBC Thursday, saying the GOP should "move on."

"I'd like to defund Planned Parenthood, but I understand that Republicans don't have complete control of the elected government," Toomey said. "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."

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