By Michael O'Brien and Russell Berman - 04/08/11 06:41 PM EDT
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said differences on spending cuts continue to prevent Congress from reaching a deal on a funding measure that would prevent a government shutdown set to begin after midnight.
Insisting the GOP wants to avoid a government shutdown, Boehner said "almost all" of the policy differences between the parties have been dealt with, and that differences over the level of cuts are preventing a final deal.
Democrats hit cable news shows, the Senate floor and social media Friday with a full-court press, arguing that Republicans were holding up a deal because of a refusal to eliminate a provision in the House-passed bill on abortion. The House bill would prevent government funds from going to Planned Parenthood.
Asked if the Planned Parenthood funding was a problem, Boehner said almost all of the policy issues had been addressed.
Boehner spoke after a meeting with the House GOP conference, which has pressured Republican leaders to win as high a level of cuts as possible to 2011 spending.
Several Republican lawmakers emerged from the meeting confident that a deal was close at hand.
“Everything was pretty upbeat, optimistic. I think we’ll cut a deal,” freshman Rep. Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.) told The Hill.
Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) said Boehner told the conference that he was “not going to get rolled” by the Democrats.
“Most of the policy issues have been settled, and it’s about spending,” he said.
The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), said plainly: “The riders have been dealt with.” He would not share details of the agreement, however. That statement directly contradicts what Democrats have claimed. Asked if they were lying, Rogers told The Hill: “I wouldn’t use that word, no.”
Boehner’s message in private appeared to be consistent with his public statements, and Republicans acknowledged that the Speaker has withheld details of the negotiations from his conference because of concerns they would leak to the media.
Lawmakers have said for days that the closed-door conference meetings have not featured talk of specific numbers. They said on Friday that while Boehner said the issue of policy provisions had been “dealt with,” he did not disclose the agreement.
If and when a deal is struck, congressional leaders plan to move rapidly to set up a House vote, either on the long-term spending bill itself or a stopgap measure that would buy time for the full legislation to be completed.
Schilling said members were instructed to make sure they are able to get to the Capitol within an hour’s notice on Friday and throughout the weekend.
As of about 1:30 p.m., Rogers said there was still time procedurally to put together legislation to extend federal funding in time to avert even a brief shutdown after midnight. Asked how long he would need, he replied: “Not long.”
Separately, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, took part in a 3 p.m. press call organized by the anti-abortion rights group Susan B. Anthony List to argue that President Obama would be to blame for a shutdown because of an insistence on protecting Planned Parenthood.
Jordan told reporters that Boehner "did not go into any detail about the so-called riders" in the conference meeting.
He declined to say whether he would support a compromise that included funding for Planned Parenthood. And he denounced Democratic arguments that Republicans were insisting on cutting money for women's health by going after the organization.
Funds for women's health "aren't cut," Jordan said. "Planned Parenthood just wouldn't receive them."
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the SBA List, said ahead of the call that Democrats were singling out the group, which she called a "significant financial and political supporter," for "special attention and protection."
"When is the question going to be asked of President Obama and Senator Harry Reid, 'Why is it reasonable to shut down the government in order to protect Planned Parenthood?' " she asked.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Friday morning said the sides had reached an agreement to cut spending by $38 billion, about $5 billion higher than what the White House and Democrats had offered earlier this week. The House approved a measure earlier this year that cuts spending by $61 billion.
He insisted that the Planned Parenthood provision is holding up a deal.
"Everything has been resolved, everything," Reid said. "It's an ideological battle that has nothing to do with the fiscal integrity of this country. It has everything to do with the ideology on that other side of the Capitol."
Legislation approved by the House would eliminate funding for all of Title X, which does not pay for abortions. Title X last year received $317 million, with $75 million of those funds going to Planned Parenthood affiliates.
In remarks later Friday, Reid said, "The House leadership, with the Speaker, have a very clear choice to make. And they don't have very much time to make that choice."
He accused GOP leaders of reneging on the spending figure that had been offered Thursday night.
"All we need for them to say is that the agreement we made last night will be fulfilled," he said.
Reid said that if no agreement can be reached, he expected a number of competing continuing resolutions to come up for unanimous consent requests in the Senate, with the hope that one might advance and prevent a shutdown.
—This story was first published at 1:28 p.m. and most recently updated at 3:40 p.m.