Right-Wing Media Obscure Fact That Policies -- Not Spending Cuts -- Are Holding Up Budget Agreement


With a possible government shutdown looming, many right-wing media figures have falsely suggested that the negotiations are centered solely on spending. However, according to news reports, conflicts over policies -- such as Republican demands to defund Planned Parenthood and restrict the Environmental Protection Agency's regulatory abilities -- are currently more responsible for the lack of a budget deal.

Right-Wing Media Falsely Suggest Budget Impasse Due To Debate Over Spending

Hannity: "[I]f The Democrats Want To Shut It Down Because They Can't Cut 61 Billion Of A $3.7 Trillion Budget, I Say, Let Them Go Make That Case." On the April 5 edition of Fox News' Hannity, host Sean Hannity, Fox Business host Stuart Varney, and Fox News contributor Dana Perino discussed the budget debate, focusing exclusively on spending cuts. From Hannity:

HANNITY: So, we are headed for a government shutdown or are we? And I personally think, first of all, we'll get to Paul Ryan's budget. I love the budget, $6.2 trillion is serious cuts. These are serious times. But the $61 billion matters to me.

PERINO: That's why I actually think the timing of Congressman Ryan's budget coming out was brilliant. It was I think that they were even going to kick it to next week. And I think they were smart to bring it forward. Because it put into perspective what we are really talking about.

HANNITY: It's a great point.

PERINO: This next six months, $32 billion, 30 to $60 billion whatever it might be is just so small. And it put it all into perspective for us.

HANNITY: Yes. And if the Democrats are rooting for a shutdown over $61 billion, if the Republicans don't whole the line on that Stuart, I don't think, how are they going to stand firm on 6.2 trillion?

VARNEY: Really? You are right. I mean, look, I think this government shutdown issue the $61 billion worth of cuts or not, completely overshadowed by the Ryan plan, which is talking trillions in cuts. And really getting our country back on track. I think one overshadows the other. But what stands out to me is this orgy of demagoguery that we are now engaging in by the Democrats. Whether it's the $61 billion with the cuts, or the Ryan plan. This thing is being demagogued to death.


VARNEY: Where is the leadership here? Who got us into this mess? It was the Democrats, it was the Obama administration. Now, where is the leadership to get us out? It is Paul Ryan, it is not the president.

PERINO: The reason that we are having a discussion about a possible budget shutdown is because, when the Democrats actually ran the House and the Senate and had the White House, they didn't pass a budget. So, now all of a sudden it is Congressman Boehner's fault? But let's go back for a moment, Speaker Pelosi in 2010 right after they took their thumping in the election, she said, we will not allow these spending cuts that they're going to propose, because it will hurt the economy. Now, they are about to take credit for getting to a $35 billion cut in this year's budget. I mean, I think by any measure the Republicans have stayed unified and kept the pressure on them, and they're going to get these cuts.

HANNITY: I think there's been this undercurrent of fear by the Republicans about the shutdown. I think, and that's why they have got to be willing to let the Democrats shut it down. Because otherwise they are going to be held hostage as we debate real cuts, 6.2 trillion.

VARNEY: Don't you think that the Ryan plan has shifted the argument?



VARNEY: Because it is talking about trillions of dollars, because it is the only plan around. And it is dealing with the big comprehensive picture. It is overshadowed any concept of a government shutdown or $61 billion worth of cuts, that is all politics. Ryan is talking real money, the country's financial future. It is a frankly brilliant plan.


PERINO: But the Democrats are sort of in a time warp. But they are still back behind before the election in 2010, and they're thinking. They got while they're using it. They are playing the same old cards over and over again. I do think that President Obama, if he really believed that the Democrats were going to take the blame for a shutdown -- I'm sorry that the Republicans would take the blame for the shutdown, he would not have come out to the briefing today and tried to answer questions. And he told Reid and Boehner to grow up. I mean, it is so petulant. And what you can do at the White House as president is he could have, in that room today said, let's make a deal. Make it look like everyone won something.

HANNITY: But there's a bigger picture here. The president, you know, he said when he was running for office that he was going to cut the deficit in half, these are the largest deficits we've ever had. Nancy Pelosi five trillion in debt, Obama is not far behind here. So, the reality is he punted and now they are going to try and pick apart, use class warfare, demagoguery, hyperbole to demonize Republicans. Will it work?

VARNEY: No, it won't work. Because I really feel that the Ryan plan shifts the political debate. This thing about the government shutdown 61 billion, that's like inside baseball, it's miniscule. It's inside baseball, Ryan has shifted the whole debate.

HANNITY: You agree with me that money matters. Because if they give into the threat of being blamed for a shutdown.

VARNEY: In the short term, a little bit of push and pull, a little bit of political game play, OK, it matters. But Ryan has shifted the debate.

HANNITY: What do I say, if the Democrats want to shut it down because they can't cut 61 billion of a $3.7 trillion budget, I say, let them go make that case to the [sic].

PERINO: But I think Boehner, even if they agree ultimately to somewhere between 30 and $40 billion in cuts, Boehner has won. Because where they started was, we are not going to do any cuts at all. Then the Senate Democrats suffered $4 billion, then the White House offered $6 billion, we are now talking $35 billion.


HANNITY: He should hold out for every penny. [Fox News, Hannity, 4/5/11, accessed via Nexis]

Wash. Examiner Op-Ed: "The Difference Between" GOP And Democrats Is "$5 Billion ... The Threat Of A Shutdown Is A Scare Tactic." In an April 7 Washington Examiner op-ed, Hudson Institute senior fellow Diana Furchtgott-Roth stated:

The two sides aren't far apart. Republicans want to cut $61 billion from 2010 fiscal year spending, the year that ended Sept. 30. Democrats have agreed to cut $34 billion, and Speaker John Boehner has offered a compromise of $39 billion.

The difference between Republicans and Democrats is $5 billion, about one-tenth of 1 percent of the $3.8 trillion in projected government outlays in 2011. Late yesterday, no compromise had been reached.

The threat of a shutdown is a scare tactic, used by the White House and some in Congress to get opponents to cave. But no one is fooled. Visions of missing Social Security checks and invading foreigners are false. [The Washington Examiner, 4/7/11]

Wash. Times: Government Shutdown Possible "As Long As President Obama Holds Out Against Trimming A Paltry $61 Billion." An April 7 Washington Times editorial stated:

It's unfortunate that tourists in the nation's capital won't be able to visit the White House as long as President Obama holds out against trimming a paltry $61 billion from the 2011 budget. It's not clear how many of the affected museum and park visitors would be interested in paying their $6,100 share of the disputed funds to keep things open. Perhaps a shutdown will help some Americans realize that Big Government doesn't come cheaply. More importantly, they may realize that doing without a handful of nonessential services may be a better idea than continuing to add to a near $14.3 trillion debt. [The Washington Times, 4/7/11]

But Policy, Not Money, Is Reportedly More At Fault For The Budget Delay

Washington Post: "Disagreements About Money Are No Longer Really The Issue." An April 7 Washington Post article reported:

[A]ides privately said that disagreements about money are no longer really the issue. Negotiators have identified an array of spending cuts, enough to meet Boehner's and Reid's demands -- if they can agree on which of those cuts to make.

Publicly, Boehner and Reid continue to argue over Republican demands that any deal include restrictions on abortion funding and environmental regulations. Democrats oppose such restrictions. Privately, both sides acknowledge that these may turn out to be bargaining chips that the GOP will ultimately remove from a final agreement in exchange for deeper cuts or other concessions. [The Washington Post, 4/7/11]

NYT: "It's Not Really About Spending ... Republicans Are Refusing To Budge On These Ideological Demands." An April 7 New York Times editorial, headlined, "It's Not Really About Spending," highlighted some of the issues that continue to hold up an agreement on the budget, stating that "if the federal government shuts down at midnight on Friday ... it will not be because of disagreements over spending. It will be because Republicans are refusing to budge on these ideological demands." From the Times:

• No federal financing for Planned Parenthood because it performs abortions. Instead, state administration of federal family planning funds, which means that Republican governors and legislatures will not spend them.

• No local financing for abortion services in the District of Columbia.

• No foreign aid to countries that might use the money for abortion or family planning. And no aid to the United Nations Population Fund, which supports family-planning services.

• No regulation of greenhouse gases by the Environmental Protection Agency.

• No funds for health care reform or the new consumer protection bureau established in the wake of the financial collapse.

Abortion. Environmental protection. Health care. Nothing to do with jobs or the economy; instead, all the hoary greatest hits of the Republican Party, only this time it has the power to wreak national havoc: furloughing 800,000 federal workers, suspending paychecks for soldiers and punishing millions of Americans who will have to wait for tax refunds, Social Security applications, small-business loans, and even most city services in Washington. The damage to a brittle economy will be substantial.

Democrats have already gone much too far in giving in to the House demands for spending cuts. The $33 billion that they have agreed to cut will pull an enormous amount of money from the economy at exactly the wrong time, and will damage dozens of vital programs.

But it turns out that all those excessive cuts they volunteered were worth far less to the Republicans than the policy riders that are the real holdup to a deal. After President Obama appeared on television late Wednesday night to urge the two sides to keep talking, negotiators say, the issue of the spending cuts barely even came up. All the talk was about the abortion demands and the other issues. [The New York Times, 4/7/11]

NYT: "No Accord In Budget Talks As Policy Fights Hamper Deal." An April 7 New York Times article cited policy disputes as the reason for the ongoing budget conflict. From the Times:

The policy disputes involved a handful of provisions. One would greatly limit financing for Planned Parenthood and other family-planning providers, in the United States and overseas, and prevent the District of Columbia from using its tax dollars to help poor women pay for abortions.

Also at issue were measures that would restrict the regulatory powers of the Environmental Protection Agency, a favorite target of Republicans since they took over the House, by preventing the agency from enforcing significant portions of the Clean Air Act and regulating carbon emissions. [The New York Times, 4/7/11]

LA Times: "Republican Policy Demands Threaten Budget Talks." An April 8 Los Angeles Times article reported:

Boehner is fighting to retain provisions that were included in House-passed bill in February. Those provisions would restrict abortion services and limit the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate pollutants.

To many rank-and-file Republicans, those hot-button issues are just as important as spending cuts. But they are also nonstarters for many Senate Democrats, including Reid.

Five separate provisions related to family planning and abortion were being pursued by the Republicans, including one that would prevent federal funding for Planned Parenthood, a long-sought goal for many socially conservative lawmakers.


Other family-planning-related provisions pursued by the GOP would halt foreign aid funding to health organizations that promote or provide abortion services, a measure known as the Mexico City rule, as well as to the U.N. Population Fund, which provides reproductive, AIDS prevention and women's health services.

Another provision would ban the District of Columbia from sending local tax revenues to groups that provide access to abortions. [Los Angeles Times, 4/8/11]

McClatchy: Republicans, Democrats Close On Spending Cuts, Not On Social Policy. An April 7 McClatchy article reported that "throughout Thursday, the two sides were close on spending cuts, but not on social policy restrictions favored by Republicans." [McClatchyDC.com, 4/7/11]

Posted In
Economy, Budget
Fox News Channel, Washington Examiner
Sean Hannity, Stuart Varney, Dana Perino, Washington Times
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