US Spending Agreed, Abortion is the Impasse: Reid

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Agence France-Presse

US Spending Agreed, Abortion is the Impasse: Reid

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Women demonstrate in Washington, DC on 7 April 2011, as the funding of Planned Parenthood became a central issue in the budget dispute threatening a government shutdown. (Photograph: AFP/Jewel Samad)

WASHINGTON — All financial elements of a US budget have been resolved between Democrats and Republicans, with the entire spending plan hinging Friday on an "ideological battle" over abortion, the top Democratic senator said.

With a midnight deadline fast approaching, bickering lawmakers have narrowed their differences but refused to finalize a spending measure for the fiscal year that would avert a dreaded federal government shutdown.

"Everything has been resolved. Everything," Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters, referring to negotiations over slashing tens of billions of dollars from federal spending.

"This all deals with women's health.... The debate has nothing to do with the number."

Democrats have claimed that a breakthrough had stalled on anti-abortion measures attached to a spending blueprint passed by the House six weeks ago. Republicans have rejected that claim.

But Reid, who was joined by Republican House Speaker John Boehner at a White House meeting with President Barack Obama Thursday night that failed to break the impasse, sought to make it clear Friday morning that the negotiations were hung up on differences over social policy.

"It's an ideological battle that has nothing to do with the fiscal integrity of this country," Reid said.

"They want something dealing with Title X, women's health."

Many Republicans have stressed they want to make organizations that offer abortion services ineligible for federal Title X grants, which fund family planning and other preventive health services.

A Boehner-Reid statement Thursday night after the White House meeting said the two sides "have narrowed the issues" and vowed to "continue to work through the night to attempt to resolve our remaining differences."

After Reid's remarks Friday, Boehner spokesman Michael Steel countered by saying that "while nothing will be decided until everything is decided, the largest issue is still spending cuts.

"The American people want to cut spending to help the private sector create jobs -- and the Democrats that run Washington don't," Steel said.

On Friday, some 16 hours before the government shuts down unless an extension or approval of a spending plan for a full budget is agreed, Democratic House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said that "we have come 70 percent of the way in terms of dollars."

He also said there were "social issues with which the Republicans are holding hostage the government."

Both sides have agreed on the need for massive spending cuts -- but Boehner said earlier there had been no agreement on a number -- despite Democratic claims that the sides had settled on slashing $34.5 billion from the budget.

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