Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 8, 2011

EVEN REPUBLICANS START TO BALK AT A CULTURE-WAR SHUTDOWN.... Perhaps the biggest political danger for congressional Republicans isn't just shutting down the government, it's shutting down the government for a ridiculous reason that the American mainstream will find absurd.

One of the major sticking points in negotiations remains the GOP demand to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood. Talk of this being about abortion isn't quite right -- Planned Parenthood is already prohibited from using public funds to terminate pregnancies, and has been for many years. What we're talking about here is Republicans balking at access to contraception, family planning services, pap smears, and cancer screenings.

All of a sudden, a few conservative Republicans are saying this just isn't worth shutting the government down over.

Republicans should "move on" from insisting on defunding Planned Parenthood in a 2011 spending bill, a Republican senator said Friday.

With less than 24 hours to go until a shutdown, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) suggested that a rider to defund Planned Parenthood, a key sticking point in reaching an agreement, was expendable.

"[We] just need to recognize," Toomey said on MSNBC. "We should aggressively go for everything we can get and move on."

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) -- who like Toomey, strongly opposes abortion rights -- has also urged House Republicans to drop the Planned Parenthood rider.

Last night on CNN, even Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), one of Congress' most strident opponents of abortion rights, was asked whether it makes sense to give up the culture-war riders. Remarkably, Bachmann said she supports having "a clean bill."

This isn't what House GOP leaders were hoping for at this stage in the process. Democrats spent much of yesterday arguing that Republicans would rather fight over hot-button social issues than keep the government running. These remarks from Toomey, Coburn, and Bachmann -- not a moderate in the bunch -- only help reinforce the accuracy of the Democratic message.

It's up to Speaker Boehner and his caucus to see the writing on the wall here. A great deal hangs in the balance.

Steve Benen 9:05 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (24)

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In the end, it's a negotiation between Boehner and his caucus-- he wants 218 Republican votes. If the votes are not there, well, so it goes.

Posted by: MattF on April 8, 2011 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

They blinked.


Posted by: Trinity on April 8, 2011 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

This isn't about funding abortion- the Hyde Amendment prohibits that. It is about fund raising letters that will be going out over the next 12 months. "Save the Unborn!" "A fetus of a Person" (until they make that one way trip down the Love Canal. . .)

Posted by: DAY on April 8, 2011 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

It should be obvious to all that Bohner is having his chain yanked by the baggers. What till the shutdown starts affecting Big Bidness bottom lines...I guarantee he will be singing a different tune.

Posted by: John R AKA Mr. Serf Man on April 8, 2011 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

To slightly change what I said earlier, I'd like to see a Democratic Congresswoman stand up and say:

"Look, yes, let's get our hands around the budget, Republicans.

But keep your hands off our vagina's, and your eyes out of our uteruses.

This is a budget bill, not a womens health bill."

Posted by: c u n d gulag on April 8, 2011 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

seems like the odds of a shut down just went from 98% to 95%....

Posted by: just bill on April 8, 2011 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

Let's not forget that this is only the first battle. There will be another over extending the debt limit, and yet another over the 2012 budget.

And each time, the Nutbaggers will demand the moon, and the House leadership will amend that to three-fourths of the moon, and the Senate will offer one-fourth of the moon, and Obama will settle for half.

So the first time they get half the moon, the second time they get half of the remainder, and the third time another half. And they end up with seven-eighths of the moon.

This is not how you negotiate with hostage-takers, unless you want a lifetime of hostage situations.

Posted by: bleh on April 8, 2011 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

Of course, if they're a disciplined negotiating team, this is just a tool for getting what you want. Sprinkle in some batshit crazy demands, act like those are vitally important, finally trade them away for deeper cuts.

See Influence by Robert Cialdini. Perhaps we should each buy a copy for our various congressmen.

Posted by: dr2chase on April 8, 2011 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

The planned parenthood rider is just one of approx. 50 obnoxious amendments not relating to the budget.

The position should be: this is about the budget. NO RIDERS!!!!

Posted by: bdop4 on April 8, 2011 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

They didn't blink.


They already got 10's of billions of dollars of concessions from our peckish and cowardly Whoreporatist Democrats.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on April 8, 2011 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

I'm sorry I have to ramble on about another subject, but please please could we all complain to the media (David Gregory) who has just announced his exclusive guest on Sunday will be Paul Ryan (to tout his budget) I am really angry the media is giving all the time to republicans.
Loss of viewers managed to get Beck out, we can do it if we try to Gregory.

Posted by: j on April 8, 2011 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

This is what 100% extra virgin Kabuki theater looks like.

Drag in uteruses for the conservative right vote - check
Drag in arbitrary cuts for the TEA vote - check
Give the black President misery for the racist vote - check

Wrap it all together and work behind the scenes to really give the wealthy an early-April Christmas gift - done

Posted by: BetweenTheLines on April 8, 2011 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

I do not believe that talk from elected Republicans--at this point, ANY elected Republican--is worth passing along or listening to. Whatever they say, including the commas and prepositions, is tactical. Truth has no meaning for these people except as a deceptive escort for falsehood.

The Democrats have already made far too many concessions in the negotiations, which, remember, concern only the last half of the present fiscal year. They don't need to further convince the public of their fairness and decent intentions: $33 billion in cuts to 16% of the budget is so convincing that they are already half way to being accomplices.

Imagine what this country would (will) look like under the complete control of the currently elected Republicans. No government spending except on military, police (especially police in the bedroom), and cronyism. Corporate oligarchs owning everything of value, parading through desperate cities with entourages of bodyguards, lawyers, and other helpers. Unions gone underground, and everyone else scrambling for a job, any job, at any price because poverty means starvation and early death. What country does this resemble? Certainly not the United States. How about Russia? Or, even worse, the Late Roman Empire described in the forthcoming book "The Origins of Business, Money and Markets" (Columbia University Business School Press, 2011).

Posted by: keith on April 8, 2011 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

Over at CNN the daily poll asks how worried the respondent is about the Shutdown. 52% say Not Very.

Now I realize that the CNN internet poll is on a par with a Rassmussen poll, that is right wing junk, but I think in this case it represents the public attitude.

Consider that the average American has had 50 years of sewage poured in their ears about how government does nothing for "us" [middle to upper class, most males or born the 'right' color under Jim Crow], Government only helps "them" [anyone brown, women, the poor]. How many Teabaggers rant they get nothing for their taxes while accepting Medicare, VA medical and Social Security?

There is a huge disconnect and a shutdown of several weeks will be a life changing lesson for many.

Posted by: OKDem on April 8, 2011 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

This isn't what House GOP leaders were hoping for at this stage in the process.

Is Steve Benen smoking crack? This is a budget negotiation. The GOP has gotten the Democrats to give them virtually everything that they want on the budget in exchange for the GOP giving up their social-agenda unicorns. A "clean bill" should have been a pre-condition for negotiations to start, not the final chip that the GOP tosses in to close the deal.

These remarks from Toomey, Coburn, and Bachmann -- not a moderate in the bunch -- only help reinforce the accuracy of the Democratic message

No, it only reinforces that the GOP took the Dems to the cleaners. When the GOP's only remaining unmet demands are items that even Toomey, Coburn, and Bachmann won't fight for then you know that you got your ass handed to you.

Steve Benen still appears to not grasp that good negotiators start by asking for everything they want -- and sometimes more than they want -- so that they have something to trade away.

Posted by: square1 on April 8, 2011 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

I realize that most people who read this blog know that the looming shutdown isn't about the deficit, it's about conservatives getting their way on culture war issues that don't have broad public support. But I don't hear that on NPR or PBS or other "liberal" media, and I know I won't hear the issue framed that way on Fox or the broadcast stations. So what are Democrats doing about THAT? And as long as it's framed as a "budget crisis" issue, Dems will get blamed for a shutdown.

Posted by: tomb on April 8, 2011 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

Didn't they want to gut the EPA and the Clean Air Act too? Are we quietly giving them the air we breath in exchange for Planned Parenthood? If so that deal sucks.

Posted by: Ron Byers on April 8, 2011 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

"A great deal hangs in the balance'

Really? Really?

I guess that depends on who's side you are on. And it is not surprising that Bachman, Toomey and Coburn would support it.

Posted by: SW on April 8, 2011 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

Of course, I understand why the President supports it as well. He has a very different job than Democrats in this thing.

Anyone recall 'the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression'? I didn't think so.

Well, to clean up that mess in a manner that will allow us to forget about it will require two things. Tax increases and I am afraid at some point (ideally not really now, I know) but some sort of fiscal discipline)

The fight to repeal the Bush tax cuts coming up next year will be a true joy. An opportunity to engage the populist uprising on the left that is just beginning. And franklyI don't think the right will know what hit them.

But the hardest thing in the world to do is to say no to your friends. To stick it to your allies. Yet a responsible chief executive is going to have to do quite a bit of that going forward.

Fortunately our man has a convienient group of buffoons to do the heavy lifting for him and deflect the anger. They make it so easy with their cast of characters and culture war bullshit. Yet he can use them. And he seems to be working on that.

Posted by: SW on April 8, 2011 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

Dear teabaggers:

In a few hours the Fed will be shut down. That means your meat will go un-inspected. You won't be able to get a passport. You (or your grandpa) won't be able to visit the VA. You will be disappointed to see the Smithsonian on the Mall and the National Zoo will be closed. And the soldiers on the front lines will be asked to PROTECT YOUR PRECIOUS FREEDOMS without pay.

This is because of your votes. Go thank the people you voted in for doing this since this is exactly what you wanted... right?

Posted by: goterpsgo on April 8, 2011 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

The budget deal is already a disaster for Dems and the country w/o the Repub policy riders.This is a defining moment for BHO and the Dems. They are in this position of weakness because when in a position of political power they acted weakly to counter a set of Repub politicans who make intransigent demands to continue problems the Repubs largely created--- and wish to enact policies to make them worse. A confrontation really is needed. It may not work.. a government shutdown may lead to further economic and policy disasters for BHO and the Dems. tThat is an unknown. Implementing Republican demands once again is a known economic and policy disaster.

Shutting the government down has the large added advantage of showing everyone, including Tea Partiers, that government IS needed. A point that BHO can't otherwise effectively make and Tea Partiers can't understand or accept until it actually affects them.

Posted by: gdb on April 8, 2011 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

You are giving Boner and his bonehead colleagues way too much credit for being sane and rational. They aren't.

Posted by: Sam Simple on April 8, 2011 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

There was always going to be some excuse for blocking a deal. The teabag toddlers MUST have their shutdown, and Messenger Boy Boehner is scared to death of not giving them what they want. Kudos to the Dems for finally learning not to fall for the Lucy-and-the-football act.

Now once the Thugs see their popularity drop lower than that of anthrax, the negotiations should restart from scratch, with zero cuts on the table from the Dems.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on April 8, 2011 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Where are the jobs? Where are the Republican bills to stimulate the economy? Where are the Republicans standing up in congress and discussing the plight of hard-working American citizens who simply can't make ends meet? Where are the Republicans willing to admit that their party is the cause of the current deficit? Sheesh - give me a break.

Posted by: Michael on April 8, 2011 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK
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