Still no deal. That is the word from Capital Hill, where lawmakers are still struggling to reach agreement on a federal budget to fund the government through September.
If there is no agreement by midnight tonight, the government will shut down for the first time in 15 years.
But after meetings late into the night yesterday, the Republicans and Democrat can’t seem to reconcile their differences. In fact, they can’t even seem to agree what their differences are.
Republican speaker of the house John Boehner, said:
“Only reason we do not have an agreement as yet and that issue is spending.”
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said it is something else entirely:
“The only thing, the only thing holding up an agreement is ideology.”
Boehner and House Republicans say the problem is that the White House and the Democratic Senate haven’t agreed to large enough budget cuts:
“When will the white house and when will senate democrats get serious about cutting spending a bill that fails to include real spending cuts will hurt job growth and signal that Washington is not serious about dealing with its spending addiction.“
But Reid said the two sides had agreed to cut about 38 billion, something that Boehner denies.
During a floor debate today, Reid told the president pro-tem of the Senate that the real cause of the stalemate is two sections of the budget bill known as policy riders, which were added by House Republicans.
“The two main issues that are holding this issue up are reproductive rights and clean air. These matters have no place on a budget bill, Mr. President.”
One of the two riders would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating green house gases. Another would cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
Republicans Senator John Kyl of Arizona says abortion is the most common service that Planned Parenthood provides:
“Everybody goes to clinics, to hospitals, to doctors and so on. Some people go to planned parenthood. But you don’t have to go to planned parenthood to get your choleteral or your blood pressure checked. You go to Planned Parenthood to get an abortion and that is well over 90% of what Planned Parenthood does.
But actually, Planned Parenthood officials say that the opposite is true– ninety percent of their care is preventive–from breast exams to contraception. Just three percent of their business is abortion-related.
What’s more, federal law has long prohibited government funds from paying for abortion. According to Reid, the real effect of the cuts will be to make it harder for women to get essential health services.
“Republicans are asking me to sacrifice my wife’s health, my daughters’ health and my nine grand daughters health. They’re asking me to sacrifice the health of women in Nevada and irah and across this country. I m not going to be part of that. I won’t do it.”
If they can’t resolve their disagreements by midnight, the federal government will effectively shut down. Nonessential services from national parks to veterans’ clinics will close and 800,000 federal employees will stay home.
Here in New York City, thousands of federal employees would be placed on Furlough. Some of the most visible effects might be at landmarks that are administered by the national park service.
Tourists lined up this morning for the ferry to Ellis Island. Lynn and her family from Milwaukee who didn’t want to give her last name, said she is happy that they beat the shutdown deadline.
“I’m very thankful we’re coming today to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty and hadn’t gotten tickets for tomorrow.”
Jo and Mark Dine are visiting from Brighton, England. They say the shutdown is more likely to affect the city than it is to affect them.
“If we wanna come we’ll still come but I think it’ll affect your revenue definitely.”
But a tourist named Mark near the end of the line for the ferry said what he did on his vacation wasn’t as big a deal as the dispute in Washington.
“We should be able to get the budget fixed, that’s the more important issue.”
As of now, House and Senate leaders still can’t compromise, and the temporary loss of jobs and services across the country may be imminent. The closure of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty is expected to affect 20,000 tourists and 130 employees.