Abortion, Environmental Regulation are Priorities for Obama in Seeking Budget Compromise

April 5, 2011 - 5:19 PM

abortion protest

Students for Life of America members hold a symbolic voided check for millions of dollars in funds for abortions during a 2009 demonstration.

Washington (CNSNews.com) – President Obama said Tuesday he would not sign a budget agreement to keep the government running that cuts funding for Planned Parenthood and the Environmental Protection Agency.

“There can be some negotiation about composition,” Obama told reporters shortly after discussions with congressional leaders on the budget.

“What we can’t be doing is using last year’s budget process to have arguments about abortion, to have arguments about the Environmental Protection Agency, to try to use this budget negotiation as a vehicle for every ideological or political difference between the two parties. That’s what the legislature is for, to have those arguments, but not stuff it all into one budget bill.”

Riders included in the House budget bill would, among other things, defund Planned Parenthood and remove the EPA’s authority to regulate “greenhouse gases” blamed for climate change.

Despite having control at the time of both the White House and Congress, Democrats did not pass a fiscal year 2011 budget last year, and the government has been running on continuing resolutions (CRs). Now, with about six months remaining in the fiscal year and the House of Representatives in Republican hands, the possibility of a government shutdown looms if an agreement is not reached by Friday.

Both Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) have said they hope to avoid a shutdown.

“What we can’t do is have a my-way-or-the-highway approach to this problem,” Obama said. “Because if we start applying that approach, where I’ve got to get 110 percent of everything I want or else I’m going to shut down the government, we’re not going to get anything done this year, and the American people are going to be the ones who suffer.”

A shutdown would halt an economic recovery, he added.

“Most of the members of Congress, they’ve got enough of a cushion, they can probably put up with a government shutdown. But there are a lot of people out there who can’t,” Obama said.

“If you’re a small business right now and you’re counting on a small business loan, it may make a difference in whether or not you can keep that business going. And you find out you can’t process it for three or four weeks, or five weeks or six weeks, because of some bickering in Washington? What does that say about our priorities? It doesn’t make sense.”

If the government does shut down, Republican Policy Committee chairman Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) says it will be the fault of Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

“If the president and Harry Reid and the Democrats conclude that it helps them politically, then we’ll have a shutdown,” Price told CNSNews.com.

“My gut sense is that they have concluded that it helps them politically. What a remarkably reckless way to make public policy as a party and as a supposed leader,” he said.

“Do I want a shutdown? No. I want effective governance and responsible governance and efficient governance and a decrease in the size and scope of the federal government. Will a shutdown occur? I don’t know. I know if it does who will be responsible for the misery that’s going to be out there, and that will be the president and Harry Reid.”

On Tuesday morning, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden met with Boehner, Reid, Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Dan Inouye (D-Ha.) and House Appropriations Committee chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.).

Boehner and Rogers have offered a continuing resolution that funds the military through September, while cutting $12 billion in spending to keep the government running for another week.

“The Speaker said the new CR has not yet been scheduled for floor action, and that Republicans’ strong preference is that we instead pass a bipartisan agreement this week that resolves last year’s budget mess by making real spending cuts and keeps the entire government running through September,” said a readout of the White House meeting from Boehner’s office.

Boehner said the Democrats’ proposal to cut $33 billion is based on “budget gimmicks.” The House passed $61 billion in cuts. The Democratic-controlled Senate has not passed a budget bill for fiscal year 2011.

Amid reports that Obama would not agree to a one-week CR, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was not clear about the president’s stance, but cast a negative light on such a resolution.

“I don’t want to presume that we can’t reach a deal when we believe that we can,” Carney told reporters. “What we have said, and our position remains, that it is not good for the economy. It is not helpful to the process to constantly pass through the tollbooth and to pay your money to keep the essential government operations running. We don’t think that’s the right approach, and that remains our position.”

Rogers, the House appropriations chairman, said that Reid was an obstructionist in the process.

“Leader Reid has attempted to abuse the budget process to conceal additional spending through phony offsets and gimmicks,” Rogers said in a statement.

“He has proposed damaging cuts to national defense to pay for lower-priority domestic programs. He has prohibited the involvement of his own Democrat senators in negotiations. And, he has dictated that all policy provisions and legislative language be cleared through him and him alone – destroying the ability of negotiators to continue in their work.”