President Obama had promised to veto the House-passed bill funding government through the end of the fiscal year, and Majority Leader Harry Reid made it clear the Senate would never pass it. But the final agreement -- with most of the cuts Republicans wanted, plus funding for school vouchers in Washington -- proved that the Democratic opposition was grounded not in Keynesian fears of spending cuts or liberal concern over service cuts.
The deal breaker for Democrats had been the rider cutting off federal funds for Planned Parenthood. As a "senior Democratic source" told the Huffington Post on Friday, "The cuts will be hard for us to swallow, but we won't bend on Title X" -- that is, federal funding of Planned Parenthood. "Reid doesn't even have to go back to the caucus to ask on that one."
Reid said so himself Friday: "We are not -- we are not! -- bending on women's health." When you consider the flexibility of Reid on other issues, this shows extraordinary devotion.
Republican rank and file were equally insistent on not funding the abortion provider. But in the horse trading over spending cuts Friday night, GOP leaders agreed not to filibuster a Senate amendment next week to reinsert Planned Parenthood funding. That was enough for Democrats -- the deal was done.
John Maynard Keynes would be horrified at the thought of cutting government spending at a time of 9.2 percent unemployment, and many liberals expressed anger at the agreement. But Planned Parenthood celebrated: "American women made their voices heard," the group's website trumpeted over the weekend.
On all the big fights during Obama's presidency, Planned Parenthood has gotten what it wants: abortion subsidies in Obamacare, two Supreme Court justices who will uphold Roe v. Wade, and staunchly pro-choice Kathleen Sebelius at the Department of Health and Human Services, among other things.
It's no wonder. Planned Parenthood is no simple health care clinic -- it is a part of the Democratic Party. And despite the talk about "women's health," it is about abortion.
Planned Parenthood points out that most of its services do not involve abortion, but this misses the point. First, if Planned Parenthood didn't provide abortions, there would be very little energy to strip its funding. Second, almost all of its services for pregnant women are abortions, according to its own fact sheet published last month: It performed 332,278 abortions in 2009, while serving 7,021 prenatal clients and referring 977 parents to adoption services.
Liberals argue that Planned Parenthood's federal funding -- a bit more than a third of its billion-dollar budget -- does not fund its abortions, but only pays for other worthy services. But that's like the notorious gambler who asks you for money to feed his family. If you decline on the grounds that he'll just gamble the money away, he retorts, "No, man, I've already got my gambling money -- it's the food money I need."
Planned Parenthood already has its aborting money, it's the HIV test money it needs from the taxpayers.
Don't forget the politics. Democrats benefited from more than a million dollars in political spending by Planned Parenthood and its political action committee in the 2010 election, with most of that being independent expenditures. The group's lobbying tab was $700,000 in 2010, down from $1 million in 2008.
Federal subsidies allow Planned Parenthood to use the money it raises not only for more abortions, but also to support Democratic politicians and their agenda. Democrats and Planned Parenthood fund one another. It's hard to get more cozy.
Conservatives, however, do their side a disservice by claiming that taking away Planned Parenthood's funding is about fiscal restraint. The $360 million could easily be cut from somewhere else. In fact, in a purely fiscal sense, abortions for poor mothers are probably an effective -- if grisly -- method of controlling social welfare costs.
The real question is this: Should taxpayers be forced to subsidize a partisan group that provides abortions?
Taxpayer funding seems like the sort of question over which even pro-choice politicians could compromise. But abortion is the issue where Democrats do not compromise.
Timothy P.Carney, The Examiner's senior political columnist, can be contacted at email@example.com. His column appears Monday and Thursday, and his stories and blog posts appear on ExaminerPolitics.com.