It’s getting a bit whiplash-inducing to follow the ins and outs of the budget talks, but here’s the latest: A spokesman for John Boehner is now denying Harry Reid’s claim that they had reached a deal for $38 billion in spending cuts at last night’s White House meeting.
But Reid’s spokesman is reiterating: John Boehner, Obama, Joe Biden, Harry Reid all agreed on that number.
Earlier today, Reid told reporters that a deal had been reached, but that he subsequently got an email from his staff telling the GOP had subsequently backed out of the deal. “At 4 o’clock in the morning, I got an email saying, `We’ve tried, but they backed off the number they’d agreed to,’” Reid said.
But now a Boehner spokesman, Brendan Buck, emails that this is wrong.
“Democrats weren’t yet willing to offer enough real spending cuts,” Buck says, adding that this is why “the news coming out of talks this morning was an impasse over spending.”
Jon Summers, a spokesman for Reid, repeated to me that there was, in fact a deal. “Boehner, Obama, Reid, Biden — they made an agreement during the meeting at the White House last night to cut $78 billion,” Summers said, referring to the original $40 billion difference between 2011 and 2012 spending levels plus the $38 billion in cuts now in dispute.
“Everything was worked out — the final thing they had to deal with was Title X,” Summers continued, in a reference to the dispute over family planning funding. “They then decided to go home and get a couple hours rest.”
The differing versions of events is critical, because the core message from Dems right now is that the level of spending cuts had been agreed upon — and that Republicans are threatening to close down the government only because of an ideologically driven vendetta against Planned Parenthood. Republicans are countering that Dems want the debate to be only about abortion and family planning to distract from their own unwillingness to agree to the spending cuts the GOP wants.
Counters Reid spokesman Summers: “If they’re denying this because they think it looks bad, not only is it bad, it’s inexacusable to block the funding of the governmentfor things like cancer screening.”