NPR

Is Shutdown Impasse Over Spending Cuts Or Family Planning? Actually, Both

House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's conflicting versions of what's behind the impasse may not be so at odds after all. (AP)

Anyone who's been watching the dueling Capitol Hill press conferences Friday heard seemingly conflicting reasons for the impasse given by Republicans and Democrats, respectively.

House Speaker John Boehner indicated that the disagreements between the parties over policy riders on the spending legislation being negotiated were mostly resolved and that the remaining issue was the size of the cuts.

Senate Majority Reid, however, said there was agreement on the spending cuts but that the disagreement boiled down to a proposed GOP policy rider on Planned Parenthood.

Conservative Republicans, he said, want to bar the non-profit organization from receiving taxpayer money to provide preventive healthcare services like cancer screenings because it also provides family planning services including abortion and contraception, even though its private money that funds those services.

A reporter at one of several Friday news conferences asked Reid point-blank if Boehner was lying when the speaker said the sticking point was money since the Senate majority leader was so clearly contradicting that.

NPR's Andrea Seabrook who covers Congress, has talked with many lawmakers and aides and determined that both Boehner and Reid could actually be right, just accentuating the particular facts that might give them the best advantage in the message war.

Andrea told Melissa Block, All Things Considered host:

In a way, they're both sort of telling the truth. I talked to lawmakers all day today, all day yesterday, especially freshmen Republicans and here's what they told me is going on within the Republican conference.

They want those cuts, they want deep cuts, especially in social programs, $61 billion. But they're willing to take a lower number if they get some of those policy changes which is the riders...

If they don't get the riders, they want deeper cuts. So in essence, they're both telling the truth about what's going on here.

Andrea also passed along this observation:

Both sides are so terrified right now about what the public will think of them if the government does shut down that really it's all about trying to make the other guy look bad if that happens. They're more interested in that — they seem to be — than in coming out with a compromise at this point.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Most Popular