‘It’s About Spending’

by Andrew Stiles

House Republicans emerged from a noon conference meeting strictly on message: “It’s about spending.” Reps. Hal Rogers (R., Ky.), Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.) and others claimed that policy issues like funding for Planned Parenthood have largely been dealt with, that the only remaining disagreement is over the level and composition of spending cuts. Boehner repeated this line to reporters after the meeting, saying there was still no deal. “I’ve said it thousands and thousands of times,” he added. “Our goal is not to shut down the government. Our goal is to cut spending.”

Several members said they were optimistic that a deal would happen by the end of the day and were hopeful that they would be meeting again later this afternoon. Rogers, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said he would be prepared to quickly draft another short-term continuing resolution if necessary to keep the government open while the details of a final package are put together.

A GOP aide tells NRO that House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) received two standing ovations during the meeting, one at the beginning when he was introduced and the other at the end, a further indication that the caucus is more united than many are suggesting.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are in a caucus meeting until 2:00 p.m. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) will speak to reporters afterward.

UPDATE: Harry Reid reiterated at a press conference that disagreement over the Title X provision on abortion funding is the only thing holding up a spending deal that was agreed to during negotiations at the White House last night. “All we need for them to say is the agreement we made last night will be fulfilled,” he said. “There’s no question about the number.”

That number, he said, was $78 billion in spending cuts, which is $38 billion in actual cuts (more here). Republicans still dispute that anything has been formally agreed to. Reid said Republicans have a clear choice to make: “They can keep their word on our agreement to significantly cut the budget and the deficit – or they can shut down America’s government over women’s access to cancer tests.”

Reid claimed that a final deal was agreed to by all parties last night, but that he received an e-mail at 4 a.m. this morning telling him Republicans were backing out.