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ThePlumLIneGS whorunsgov plumline
Posted at 08:31 AM ET, 04/08/2011

The Morning Plum

* How both sides want you to view the looming shutdown: Here’s the current status of the dispute in a nutshell: The remaining differences over money are, in the larger scheme of things, virtually meaningless; the government may now shut down over a dispute about pap smears and the legitimacy of climate science as a premise for federal policy.

With less than 24 hours to go before the government shutdown deadline, Republicans and Dems remain starkly at odds over about $5 billion in spending and over the GOP’s insistence on using the budget to dramatically remake social and environmental policy.

Negotiations broke up last night with John Boehner’s camp insisting on $39 billion in cuts, and Dems sticking to $34 billion. Republicans are sticking to their demand for riders that would transfer Planned Parenthood funding to the states and gut the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate greenhouse gasses — even though they know these are nonstarters for Dems.

Democrats want you to see the breakdown in talks as proof of their larger argument that the GOP is in the grip of fervent Tea Party ideology. So they’re hammering away at the GOP’s ideological insistence on shoehorning non-deficit-related policies into a fiscal document and emphasizing the standoff over Planned Parenthood and the EPA as the final obstacle to a deal. “This is no longer about the deficit,” said Dick Durbin. “It’s about bumper stickers.”

Republicans want you to see that Dem argument as proof of the larger GOP case that Dems aren’t serious about spending, which is why they’re arguing that Dems are emphasizing the riders as a bait-and-switch to distract you from remaining disagreements about the size of budget cuts. “There are a number of issues that are on the table, and any attempt to try to narrow this down to one or two just would not be accurate,” Boehner said.

Republicans are using the ideologically charged riders as leverage to gain more concessions on spending cuts, and they can plausibly argue that every penny won counts. But this is a risky gamble for Republicans, because Dems can use the GOP focus on riders to argue that Republicans have injected social issues into what should be a discussion about numbers. After all, the difference over money right now amounts to about one half of one percent of federal spending, while the difference over riders reveals a stark ideological divide between the parties that isn’t going away — and will have major consequence. In its current form, at least, the budget debate is not meaningfully about fiscal matters. It’s over abortion, women’s health, and whether our environmental policies should be premised on climate science.

* Republicans want “riders” that would remake broad swaths of policy: Indeed, while “riders” routinely find their way into budgets, the ones being proposed by Republicans are far more sweeping than usual and would rewrite large areas of policy in a way guaranteed to trigger a major ideological showdown.

The result: Each side is under intense pressure from their respective bases not to cave on this last sticking point..

* The government shutdown, made simple: Ryan Grim has the lede of the day:

The United States government is on the verge of shutting down over a dispute about subsidized pap smears, according to sources familiar with the budget negotiations.

* Dems demand social issues “truce”: Steny Hoyer is now calling for a social issues “truce” in demanding that Republicans drop their insistence on riders, another sign that Dems hope to use the GOP’s injection of abortion and the environment into budget discussions to paint the GOP as hopelessly ideological.

* The Planned Parenthood dispute: Jake Tapper reminds us that Planned Parenthood is already forbidden from spending federal funds on abortion, though opponents argue federal funding of women’s health measures frees up abortion funding.

* Wisconsin state Supreme Court race swings back to David Prosser: Waukesha county clerk Katherine Nickolaus announces she failed to enter and save on her computer some 14,315 votes that had not been counted in the first tally, putting Prosser significantly ahead of JoAnne Kloppenburg.

Kloppenburg’s supporters are filing an open records request for relevant documents and pointing out that the clerk worked for Prosser. But the problem for them is that the Democrat on the board of county canvassers is also vouching for the numbers.

Dems are likely to kick up some noise over what happened and perhaps even try taking it to court. Even if Prosser wins, which seems very likely, the key is that these latest events will only lend more energy to the ongoing recall drives.

* Labor has found the next Katherine Harris: In a sign that labor will use the controversy over the “found” votes to galvanize the recall drives, a labor strategist emails:

In the coming days, we will learn whether or not Wisconsin’s Katherine Nickolaus is the functional equivalent of Florida’s Katherine Harris

* Pundits got punk’d by Ryan proposal: Someone joked (not sure who or where) that Paul Ryan timed the release of his Medicare proposal to come between Paul Krugman columns, so more credulous commentators would weigh in on it first, but even so, Krugman comes through today with a very thorough debunking of Ryan’s plan.

Key takeaway: Krugman notes that seniors would discover the voucher plan is inadequate and demand bigger vouchers, and because they vote, they would get them — wiping away the plan’s phantom savings.

* Obama still struggling with white voters: Demographics guru Ronald Brownstein goes deep into the weeds to illustrate in detail just how difficult Obama’s problems remain with whites, which could have major ramifications in 2012.

* And the meaning of Donald Trump: Who looks the worst in light of the fact that many GOP primary voters are taking a cartoon character like Trump seriously as a major party presidential candidate: The field of 2012 hopefuls, or the GOP primary electorate itself?

What else is happening?

By  |  08:31 AM ET, 04/08/2011

 
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