With a federal shutdown appearing likelier by the minute, Washington is now engaged in two very different discussions about federal spending. Right now, they appear to have little to do with each other.
On the one hand, Republican and Democratic negotiators are seeking a deal to avoid a government shutdown -- a discussion that involves relatively little money, spent (or not spent) over a relatively short amount of time.
On the other, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan's grandiose 2012 budget proposal has sparked a much broader debate about long-term, big-picture spending levels.
The one thing they have in common: rhetoric.
In the last few hours, debate over a government shutdown has largely devolved into mud-slinging about Planned Parenthood money. It's the only sticking point that remains, Democrats say: "Republicans have made this about women's health ... not about money or anything else," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said at a press conference Friday afternoon, in reference to the GOP's requests the bill in question will strip federal funds from Planned Parenthood/
That's not true at all, according to Republicans. While they've demurred on whether or not they'll give up the Planned Parenthood "rider," House Speaker John Boehner has reiterated that matters of policy are mostly settled. It's about where the cuts will be made, his office said this morning: Democrats want to cut from mandatory programs, while Republicans want to shave from discretionary appropriations, shrinking the discretionary baseline so that future budgets will see less spending outside mandatory entitlements.