The Government Shutdown is About Abortion and Pollution

Money ain’t a thing.

The Government Shutdown is About Abortion and Pollution

After a meeting with President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner last night, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid appeared optimistic that Republicans and Democrats would reach a budget compromise and avoid a government shutdown.

This morning, that optimism seems to have left the building.

“I am not nearly as optimistic, and that’s an understatement, as I was 11 hours ago,” Reid said today, according to the New York TimesCaucus blog. “The only thing holding up an agreement is ideology.”

No shit. That’s what the budget debate has been about this entire time. Not to beat a dead horse, but everyone knows that cutting $61 billion from discretionary spending for a single fiscal year is about as frugal as deciding to order the second most expensive bottle of champagne at the 40/40 Club.

Democrats don’t want to concede on that figure because if they do, they forfeit practically all their clout for the remainder of forever. Talks have put a compromise figure somewhere in the neighborhood of $30-$40 billion, but Republicans insist that’s bull. Yes, a government shutdown is looming because the GOP is only getting two-thirds of what it wants.

What aren’t Republicans getting? To hear Harry Reid tell it, negotiations around a compromise figure keep getting snagged on Republican proposals to restrict federal financing of abortion providers and changes to the Clean Air Act.

Leaving aside the fact that abortion is a medical procedure performed by medical professionals and should therefore enjoy the same federal dollars our government has deemed wise to spend on public health, to shut down the government over the chump change Washington spends on the procedure is nothing short of ludicrous. The government’s relationship with abortion, as well as its relation with the environment, are conversations that are absolutely worthwhile—so worthwhile that they require completely separate debates. Attempting action on these issues in the context of a budget debate, prompting gridlock (which Republicans had to know would happen) and endangering the livelihood of nearly one million government employees in addition to freezing public services, is profoundly irresponsible.

A compromise involves each side giving up something they want in order to get something they want. Right now, the Republican leverage amounts to controlling one house of one branch of government. The minority party in Washington, they’ve been met more than halfway by Democrats and still aren’t satisfied.

A plurality of 37 percent of Americans say they would blame Republicans for a shutdown. They would be right. It’s the Tea Party caucus that’s pressured House Republicans to leave Dems’ spending cut concessions on the table. It’s the Tea Party caucus holding rallies on Capitol Hill calling for the government to shut down. It’s the Republican party that did the exact same thing 15 years ago.

Of course, this all could have been avoided if Congressional Democrats had done their fucking job last year and passed a budget like they were supposed to. There’s no shortage of blame to go around for this shutdown, which is almost a certainty, unless today’s meeting between Obama, Reid and Boehner (happening as I write this) manages an about-face. I’m not holding my breath.

Just remember: When everything grinds to a halt, it will not be in the name of fiscal responsibility. It will be in the name of ideology; Harry Reid is right about that much. The only thing standing between Americans and a government that works for them is the Republican agenda.