As The Washington Post reported over the weekend, it is clear that President Obama took a personal role in forging the portion of a budget deal that included a reimposition of a ban on local funding for abortions in the District.
“John, I will give you D.C. abortion. I am not happy about it,” Obama reportedly said to Speaker John A. Boehner (R).
That quote sent local politicos reeling. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) said earlier today that he had a “sinking feeling” when he read that quote. At today’s White House news briefing, Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked for reaction to Gray’s contention that the District was “thrown under the bus” by budget negotiators.
The fact is that the compromise that was reached involved a lot of tough choices, as we’ve discussed and as the president has discussed. Not everyone got what he or she wanted. The president did not get everything he wanted. He would not have supported this, does not support the provision that concerns the mayor. And he is a firm supporter of D.C. home rule.
But in a negotiation, you have to make tough choices, and he fought hard to — and succeeded in preventing a strenuous effort by the Republicans to de-fund Planned Parenthood, to de-fund access to women’s health providers around the country, and felt that that was vitally important and made sure that that was preserved.
But tough choices were made, and that was one of them.
Carney’s response makes it clear that D.C. abortion funding was sacrificed to save the federal budget from broader cuts to women’s health programs — such as the $320 million in “Title X” family planning money distributed to health-care providers in poor communities.
I asked several District leaders today to react to the notion that the city’s sacrifice had potentially saved hundreds of millions of dollars of funding nationwide.
D.C. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) said he didn’t believe the rider was part of a quid pro quo on broader funding. “It was to close the deal — ‘Okay, you can have D.C.,’ ” he said. “I could not believe that [Obama] of all people said that D.C. is negotiable.”
Member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) — like Wells, an early and strong backer of Obama — said she felt “personally let down” after reading his words. And the idea that other funding might have been saved was of little succor.
“I think the president is a better negotiator than that,” Bowser said. “He should have made a better choice.”