The Budget Battle as Culture War
Lawmakers offer a flurry of amendments to defund Planned Parenthood, health care reform, the climate czar, and other favorite targets
House Republicans are warning that if President Obama and Senate Democrats don't accept their budget--which cuts $60 billion from the rest of the fiscal year--they might shut down the government. A stopgap funding measure expires on March 4. Democrats think the cuts are too steep and could threaten the economic recovery, and Obama has threatened a veto. But while the White House and Republican leadership play this high-level game of chicken, the budget has become the latest front in the the culture wars, with Republicans using an marathon session to propose to defund programs like health care reform, Planned Parenthood, public broadcasting, and the president's Teleprompter.
Republicans didn't fare well during the last government shutdown, in 1995, when President Clinton's poll numbers soared as House Speaker Newt Gingrich was blamed for the mini-crisis. But current House Speaker John Boehner says he won't accept another stopgap if it doesn't include big cuts, The New York Times' David M. Herszenhorn reports. "When we say we're going to cut spending," Mr. Boehner declared. "Read my lips: we're going to cut spending." Boehner allowed lawmakers to offer hundreds of amendments to the budget bill, and they seized on the opportunity to fight some of their favorite battles in the culture war.
The Hyde Amendment forbids any federal money to pay for abortions. But Planned Parenthood gets $75 million to offer contraception, cancer screening, and other health care for low-income women. But the organization's foes say that money "only frees up funds for abortions," The New York Times' Erik Eckholm reports, and Republicans are considering axing all of Title X, a $317 million program that aids family planning.
Fox News' Chad Pergram reports, "the debate on the Planned Parenthood amendment devolved into a testy, at times emotional exchange about abortion Thursday night, chewing up nearly three hours on the House floor."
Update: The House has passed the amendment to defund Planned Parenthood. Seven Republicans voted against the proposal, ten Democrats voted for it.
Reps. Denny Rehberg and Cathy McMorris Rodgers introduced amendments to defund Obama's health care overhaul--McMorris Rodgers' would prevent the IRS from using any money to implement the law, while Rehberg's would forbid the Labor and Health and Human Services Departments from doing so. These amendments will be voted on Friday.
Rep. Steve King of Iowa tried to offer his own anti-health care amendment, but the House rules committee blocked it, saying it was going too far in trying to "legislate" via the budget process, The Washington Post's Felicia Sonmez reports.
The House approved Florida Rep. Steve Scalise's amendment to defund the president's "climate czar," The Hill's Andrew Restuccia reports, as well as several other such advisers to the president. Scalise said he wanted to show the White House "that we are tired of him running this shadow government... We are going to save millions of taxpayer dollars, but we are also going to send him a signal that he is going to have to hold his administration accountable to the same transparency that he promised, but has unfortunately failed to deliver." Other czars targeted by Scalise include:
the director of the White House Office of Health Reform; the State Department’s special envoy for climate change; the special adviser for green jobs, enterprise and innovation at the Council on Environmental Quality; the senior adviser to the secretary of the treasury assigned to the Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry and senior counselor for manufacturing policy; the White House director of urban affairs; the special envoy to oversee the closure of Guantanamo Bay; the special master for TARP executive compensation at the Department of the Treasury; and the associate general counsel and chief diversity officer at the Federal Communications Commission.
The Obama Family Residence
Texan Rep. Randy Neugebauer proposed banning any funds for repairing or improving the family residence at White House.
House Republicans are close to defunding public broadcasting, the Boston Globe's Matt Viser reports. A similar effort was blocked in 2007, when 87 Republicans opposed such cuts.
Rep. Greg Walden's amendment to block the FCC from enforcing net neutrality regulations passed Thursday night.
But Two Can Play at That Game!
Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum of Minnesota proposed ending funding for the Pentagon to sponsor a NASCAR team, which the Defense Department uses as a recruiting aid. McCollum received an obscenity-laced death threat in response to the measure, Talking Points Memo's Evan McMorris-Santoro reports.