Abortion, Spending Cuts Hamper Deal To Avoid Government Shutdown

Negotiations between Democrats and Republicans to avoid a government shutdown ended for the night a few hours ago without a breakthrough. Still bedeviling the talks is the issue of abortion. Republicans want a bill to fund the government for six months to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood and Democrats won’t allow it. But according to Republicans, there may be some flexibility on the riders if Democrats would pony up a few billion dollars more in cuts — and, according to one top Republican aide, they’ve drawn the line at $34.5 billion in cuts to current spending.

That’s at least in part because of the composition of the cuts. Republicans propose giving the Pentagon $2 billion more than Defense Secretary Robert Gates has requested. That additional spending puts additional pressure on domestic discretionary programs, which are taking the brunt of the cuts.

Late last night, after a White House meeting with President Obama and key aides, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid released a joint statement signaling progress. A Democratic source briefed on negotiations said the two were very close to agreement.

But with just over 12 hours to go until the government shuts down, somethings going to have to give, or one side’s going to have to budge. Obama has told principals he wants an answer this morning. If they do reach agreement, the Senate could send the House emergency legislation to keep the government open into next week, allowing aides to complete paperwork on the spending bill, pass it in both chambers, and send it to the White House for a signature.

“While nothing will be decided until everything is decided, the largest issue is still spending cuts,” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel in a statement Friday morning. “The American people want to cut spending to help the private sector create jobs – and the Democrats that run Washington don’t.”

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