Harry Reid, on the Senate floor moments ago, uncorked a blast at Republicans over Planned Parenthood that suggests Dems think they’ve got John Boehner boxed in big time:
“Republicans want to shut down the government because they think there is nothing more important than keeping women from getting cancer screenings? That is indefensible, and everyone should be outraged — women and men. Republican leaders in the House have only a few hours left to look in the mirror, snap out of it and realize how positively shameful that would be.”
“For months, this conversation has been about billions and trillions of dollars. It has been about weighty issues and difficult decisions. This debate used to be about saving money.
“No longer. We have an agreement on the cuts and savings. And that agreement includes a historic level of cuts...
“The consequences of letting our country’s funding expire would be devastating. It would be devastating to our troops, to our small businesses and to Americans’ everyday lives – people who just want to get a home loan or get their tax refund or get their paycheck. It would damage our image and credibility around the world.
“But Republicans are asking me to sacrifice my wife’s health, my daughter’s health and my nine granddaughters’ health. They’re asking me to sacrifice the health of women in Nevada and across America. I won’t do it.
“As a legislator, I’m frustrated. And as an American, I’m appalled. As a husband, a father and a grandfather, I’m personally offended.”
Republicans, of course, maintain that this is still a battle over spending — that there is no agreement on the level of spending cuts. And it seems clear that Republicans are holding out on Planned Parenthood funding mainly in order to increase their leverage and extract even more spending cuts.
But now it looks like Dems are preparing a new way of undercutting the GOP claim that there’s no spending agreement. Charles Schumer claimed on ABC’s Top Line — which is set to run at noon — that John Boehner offered Obama and Dems a target number in private talks, and that Dems accepted it. ABC’s Rick Klein Tweeted Schumer’s quote moments ago:
“Boehner offered a number...Obama said OK we’ll take that.”
I’m assuming House GOPers will deny this, and in truth, we can’t know what exactly was said behind closed doors. Separately, however, Harry Reid is claiming that Dems are prepared to agree to $38 billion in cuts. Republicans have said all along that they are holding out for the biggest cuts possible, and from their perspective, $38 billion simply isn’t enough. But Dems can now counter that they have agreed to more than half the $61 billion in cuts House conservatives wanted.
The key to keep in mind here is that there’s a massive opinion gap between the GOP base and independents on whether they prefer a comromise or a government shutdown. The base wants a shutdown, but it would risk squandering the GOP’s gains among independents in 2010, and it could play into the Dem strategy of winning back indys for 2012 by painting the GOP as hostage to Tea Party extremists. If Democrats can make Reid’s floor remarks the storyline — that there’s no longer even a debate over money, and Republicans are prepared to shut down the government not even over abortion, but over federally-funded women’s health programs — it seems pretty clear that it could put Republican leaders in a difficult political spot.