Reid: Rider on Planned Parenthood won't be included in budget deal

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidSanders courts GOP voters with 'Medicare for All' plan Glamorization of the filibuster must end Schumer won't rule out killing filibuster MORE (D-Nev.) on Thursday drew a firm line with Republicans, declaring that a controversial Planned Parenthood measure will not be included in any deal on the budget. 

Reid’s warning, coupled with the GOP’s insistence that taxpayer dollars should not fund Planned Parenthood, increase the chances of a government shutdown. 

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Reid defended Planned Parenthood’s work to promote contraception. He said a policy rider attached to the House-passed spending package last month “won’t be part of an agreement.” 

Flanked by Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDurbin calls Mueller report findings on Trump team 'troubling' Congress opens door to fraught immigration talks McConnell: 'Past time' for immigration-border security deal MORE (D-Ill.) and Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerHillicon Valley: House Dems subpoena full Mueller report | DOJ pushes back at 'premature' subpoena | Dems reject offer to view report with fewer redactions | Trump camp runs Facebook ads about Mueller report | Uber gets B for self-driving cars Dem legal analyst says media 'overplayed' hand in Mueller coverage Former FBI official praises Barr for 'professional' press conference MORE (D-N.Y.), Reid spoke to reporters immediately after the Senate voted 87-13 to pass legislation funding the government through April 8. Nine Republicans, three Democrats and Independent Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersCory Booker has a problem in 2020: Kamala Harris Wage growth shaping up as key 2020 factor for Trump Booker to supporter who wanted him to punch Trump: 'Black guys like us, we don't get away with that' MORE (Vt.) voted against the measure, which cuts $6 billion from the federal budget. 

Members of both parties say a long-term deal must be reached before the April 8 deadline, vowing to vote against another stopgap. 

Democrats argue that stripping Planned Parenthood of funds would deprive low-income women of family-planning counseling and cancer screenings. Republicans and groups on the right claim that the government should not be in the business of funding an organization that performs abortions. They also note Planned Parenthood has been plagued by a recent scandal, adding it is the perfect time to cut off its federal funds.

Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), who crafted the Planned Parenthood measure, has repeatedly said “it’s time to pick a fight” with Democrats over the budget, strongly making the case for his amendment. A Pence spokesman declined to comment on Reid’s remarks. 

Democratic aides familiar with the talks say that the Planned Parenthood measure is one of a long list of policy riders that could derail a bipartisan deal. 

Reid said he reviewed the list of amendments attached to the House-passed bill and found several unacceptable. 

“Those that I focused on are not only no, but hell no,” Reid said.

Another policy measure that critics call a poison pill — one that has received less attention than the Planned Parenthood language — is a provision that would reinstate the so-called Mexico City policy, which bars non-governmental organizations that receive federal funds from promoting abortions.    

“I think they could create real significant problems for this budget and they should be out,” Schumer said of the conservative policy riders. “This is not a debate on abortion or net neutrality or clean air. It’s a debate about the budget.”

Schumer said if “the House cannot go forward without these riders, it’s going to create real problems and make it very difficult to get a budget.”

Reid indicated on Thursday that he was open to some of the 67 amendments included as part of the House bill, though he declined to be specific. 

Nineteen Senate Democrats sent a letter to Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenCory Booker has a problem in 2020: Kamala Harris 2020 Dems ratchet up anti-corporate talk in bid to woo unions Resurfaced Buttigieg yearbook named him 'most likely to be president' MORE on Wednesday pledging to defeat Republican efforts to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funds for the rest of the year.

The senators say the rider would “effectively shut down health centers that serve 3 million women each year and provide nearly 1 million lifesaving screenings for cervical cancer, more than 830,000 breast exams and nearly 4 million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.”

Aides to Reid and House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew Boehner20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform Dem says marijuana banking bill will get House vote this spring Trump appears alongside Ocasio-Cortez on Time 100 list MORE (R-Ohio) met for an hour and a half Wednesday evening to discuss a compromise. 

Reid on Thursday declined to comment on those talks. BoehnerJohn Andrew Boehner20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform Dem says marijuana banking bill will get House vote this spring Trump appears alongside Ocasio-Cortez on Time 100 list MORE’s office has said it will not negotiate through the press. 

Meanwhile, Biden has taken a more hands-on role since returning from a trip to Finland, Russia and Moldova. Democrats on Capitol Hill last week grumbled about the trip abroad, especially after President Obama tapped Biden to be the Democrats’ lead negotiator.

Biden spent much of Wednesday with White House budget director Jack LewJacob (Jack) Joseph LewOvernight Finance: US reaches deal with ZTE | Lawmakers look to block it | Trump blasts Macron, Trudeau ahead of G-7 | Mexico files WTO complaint Obama-era Treasury secretary: Tax law will make bipartisan deficit-reduction talks harder GOP Senate report says Obama officials gave Iran access to US financial system MORE and National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling discussing the administration’s budget strategy, according to an aide familiar with his schedule. 

Biden attended the annual St. Patrick’s Day lunch on Capitol Hill and worked out of his office in the Senate on Thursday, making phone calls to Republicans and Democrats on both sides of the Capitol to work out a budget deal. 

 A Senate Democratic source close to the negotiations said Biden’s office had been involved in the talks but that Biden himself had not taken much of a personal role before Wednesday.  

Most of the negotiating has taken place between Reid and Boehner, and Lew has taken the lead for the administration — at least before Wednesday — according to the source. 

Senate Democrats say they are becoming increasingly pessimistic about striking a deal with House Republicans. Reid has yet to inform members of his caucus of any concessions Boehner and other GOP leaders might be willing to accept. 

“It looks like we’re headed for an impasse because the other side doesn’t want to budge an inch,” Sen. Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm MORE (D-Ark.) said of House Republicans. “I’m starting to feel a sense of inevitability” about a possible government shutdown. 

Sen. Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuDems wrestle over how to vote on ‘Green New Deal’ Lobbying world Former New Orleans mayor: It's not my 'intention' to run for president MORE (D-La.) said, “Democrats have in my view been flexible, and some Republicans are showing some willingness to be flexible, but the core leadership in the House doesn’t seem to want to budge much.”

Republican conservatives and centrists say it will be difficult for Boehner to come down from the $61 billion in cuts House Republicans initially demanded.  

Conservatives point out that $61 billion is about $10 billion less than the amount of debt the federal government accumulates in a single day. If Boehner were to compromise down from what many conservatives already say is too modest a cut, he would likely attract sharp criticism from the Tea Party. 

 “It’s not acceptable to me, and I don’t think it’s going to be acceptable to a lot of the [House Republican] freshmen,” said Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), a member of the Senate Tea Party Caucus. “That’s been the danger all along, to get involved in this negotiation between bad and worse.”

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulBooker, Harris have missed most Senate votes Trump vetoes measure ending US support for Saudi-led war in Yemen Bottom line MORE (R-Ky.), another member of the Tea Party Caucus, has proposed spending cuts of $500 billion and $200 billion over the next year. 

 Sen. Dick Lugar (Ind.), a centrist Republican facing a Tea Party-backed primary challenge, has said GOP leaders should cut more than $61 billion. 

“If you’re going to go through the exertion to cut that much, it should be more substantial,” he said Thursday. 

Asked if it was politically feasible for Boehner to accept less than $61 billion in cuts, Lugar responded: “Probably not.”